FTC finds Rambus guilty

Written by Brett Thomas

August 2, 2006 | 20:04

Tags: #patent #rdimm

Companies: #ftc #rambus

The FTC's review commission has released a finding that cites Rambus, one of the world's leading RAM designers, for monopolistic practices. The rather scathing report states (in no uncertain terms) that Rambus "held up," "distorted," and flat out lied to JEDEC, the board responsible for setting DRAM standards in the industry.

According to the report, Rambus participated in JEDEC and (quite successfully) helped steer it to certain standards, and then used that information to secretly file patents on the technologies outlined. While the JEDEC companies tried to hammer out guidelines for the industry to use with DRAM, Rambus worked to own the technologies laid out in the very same guidelines. The end result? JEDEC would approve a standard, and then Rambus would be the only one allowed to make it, unless other companies would pay it a hefty licensing fee.

A quote from the report:
"Rambus’s conduct was calculated to mislead JEDEC members by fostering the belief that Rambus neither had, nor was seeking, relevant patents that would be enforced against JEDEC-compliant products.... Under the circumstances, JEDEC members acted reasonably when they relied on Rambus’s actions and omissions and adopted the SDRAM and DDR SDRAM standards."

Rambus has filed several suits in between the improprieties and this report, all against other RAM manufacturers for...you guessed it, patent infringement. One of these was thrown out (back in 2001) when Rambus claimed to own the standards for SDRAM and DDR. In 2004, the company added a new twist when it filed suit against four manufacturers (Hynix, Infineon, Seimens, and Micron) for price-fixing on DDR chips, stating that the other companies attempted to keep it locked out of the market (gee, I wonder why).

The Infineon suit was settled out of court for undisclosed figures, but not before it was dismissed by a judge when Rambus was found shredding documents like it needed confetti. Two suits still sit open at this time (Hynix and Micron), and a third was filed against Samsung. It is unsure whether the FTC's findings will put the Rambus suits back into court for dismissal, as certain chip makers have acknowledged intentional price-fixing.

Of course, this is only the latest knot in the rope, so to speak. The FTC brought charges against Rambus in 2002 which were dismissed, and the FTC appealed. This commission finding is the result of that appeal, and will now be passed on to determine an appropriate remedy for the industry.

Have you got a thought on the industry scandal? Still mad at Rambus for RDIMMs in the early P4 days? Vent your thoughts in our forums.
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