Lawyers predict FTC's Rambus case will continue

Two lawyers on federal regulatory issues have predicted that the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will ignore a recommendation...

Two lawyers on federal regulatory issues have predicted that the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will ignore a recommendation by an administrative law judge to end its antitrust case against Rambus.

The lawyers said the FTC was likely to push forward with its case focusing on Rambus' behaviour as a member of the Joint Electron Device Engineering Council Solid State Technology Association (JEDEC), even though FTC administrative law judge ruled in February that the FTC failed to make its case against the DRam (dynamic Ram) manufacturer.

"The commission will not affirm what the administrative law judge did," predicted Michael Zito, a regulatory lawyer with Lathrop and Gage and a former FTC lawyer who worked on the Rambus case. "Beyond that is much less clear."

FTC commissioners could decide not to support the judge's finding that the agency lacks jurisdiction to bring the case, which accuses Rambus of obtaining patents on chip design standards JEDEC was developing while Rambus was a member of the group. The commission could overturn the judge's ruling on jurisdiction while preserving his ruling on the charges, noted Alicia Batts, an antitrust lawyer with Dickstein, Shapiro, Morin, Oshinksy.

Rambus general counsel John Danforth disputed the panel's analysis of the case, saying the FTC judge heard 55 days of testimony before making his ruling. "We didn't win on one, two or three grounds, we won on a dozen grounds or more," Danforth said.

Some witnesses in the case contradicted documents from the time of the alleged violations, Danforth said. He noted that Infineon Technologies, among the group of Rambus competitors accusing Rambus of anticompetitive behaviour, pleaded guilty to US Department of Justice (DOJ) charges that it conspired with other DRam manufacturers to fix prices. Infineon agreed to pay a $160m (£89m) fine and will co-operate with the DOJ's continuing investigation.

The FTC has scheduled a hearing next week on the technology issues in the Rambus case. A second hearing is scheduled for 9 December.

Grant Gross writes for IDG News Service

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