Rambus continues legal action against memory suppliers

Rambus is continuing its legal onslaught against computer memory companies by filing an antitrust lawsuit against four companies,...

Rambus is continuing its legal onslaught against computer memory companies by filing an antitrust lawsuit against four companies, accusing them of banding together to eliminate competition.

The suit was filed against Hynix Semiconductor, Infineon Technologies, Micron Technology and Siemens, and alleges that executives from those four memory firms colluded to set cost parameters for Rambus' RDram (Rambus dynamic RAM) product and to restrict output of that product to raise its price and stop it becoming a mainstream memory technology.

"What led to this development was the quantity and quality of the evidence. We couldn't ignore our fiduciary responsibility to our shareholders," said John Danforth, senior vice president and general counsel for Rambus.

Representatives from Micron, Siemens, and Hynix were not immediately available for comment.

Rambus designed RDram as an alternative to conventional Dram technology in the early 1990s. The company does not manufacture memory chips, but licenses its designs to companies such as the defendants in its antitrust case.

The antitrust lawsuit is the latest salvo in a legal saga that has stretched for years. Rambus claims that the SDram standard infringes on some of its patents, and has filed numerous lawsuits attempting to collect royalties from Dram manufacturers that did not agree to license Rambus' technology. The holdout Dram vendors claimed that Rambus failed to inform a memory standards-setting committee that it held patents on certain technologies that were under consideration for the SDram standard, in violation of that committee's rules.

Rambus has prevailed in two legal challenges so far, winning an appeal of a fraud verdict stemming from a trial in Virginia, and a dismissal of the FTC's complaint against the company. Separate litigation related to the Virginia case is pending against Infineon, and the lawyers for the FTC have filed an appeal to the full commission in that case.

If Rambus is allowed to collect royalties on its patents, the amount could reach $3bn, lawyers for the FTC said in their appeal.

A separate US Department of Justice antitrust investigation against the Dram suppliers is also under way.

Tom Krazit writes for IDG News Service

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