Rambus triumphs in memory chip licensing case
Rambus Judge Ronald M. Whyte and a jury at the North California District Court in San Jose have found the company not guilty of acting improperly when it was a member of the industry association JEDEC's DRAM standardisation committee in the 1990s. The refusal of memory chip companies Hynix, Micron and Nanya to pay licensing fees for their SDR and DDR SDRAM chips is based on alleged misconduct by Rambus, which was accused of failing to disclose patent applications.
Rambus' share price rose by more than 25 per cent on the New York Stock Exchange following the announcement of the verdict by Judge Ronald M. Whyte – though the closing price of $25.86 is still well short of the $100 at which the shares were being traded at the height of the new economy bubble.
The case before the court in San Jose was highly complicated, as it concerned a number of individual complaints originally submitted in part by Rambus, in part by its three adversaries, the core issues of which were ultimately dealt with together. The pivotal question was whether Rambus behaved improperly during its membership of the DRAM standardisation committee. Rambus' opponents accused the company of breaching anti-trust laws and therefore being unable to demand payment of licensing fees for the disputed patents. Hynix, Micron and Nanya's lawyers failed to furnish sufficient evidence of the alleged improper behaviour.
Hynix will now have to hand over the $133.6m it agreed with Rambus under a 2006 judgement handed down by the same judge. Micron and Nanya still need to reach agreements with Rambus. The Federal Trade Commission has capped the amount of licensing fees payable.
Micron has dismissed the court's decision and plans to appeal. Micron remains of the opinion that Rambus has breached antitrust laws and has been guilty of deception. The court's verdict also contradicts an FTC decision from August 2006, which in turn triggered a European Commission investigation. In addition, a number of Rambus patents are disputed - the European Patent Office revoked one Rambus patent back in 2004.