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Court denies Rambus' bid to prove chip makers colluded

Posted: 27 Feb 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Spencer Chin? Rambus? memory chip?

A San Francisco court decision last week refused Rambus Inc.'s motion to release possible evidence that a number of chip makers conspired against the company by fixing prices and engaging in other anti-competitive practices.

The decision, handed down by Judge Richard Kramer of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, dealt chip licensing company Rambus a blow in its quest to prove that memory chip suppliers such as Micron, Hynix and Samsung violated antitrust laws by colluding behind Rambus' back by conspiring to fix prices of RDRAM.

A Rambus spokesperson told EE Times in an interview the judge did not think the evidence was "valuable to the case", and therefore, could not be introduced in the antitrust trial.

In a brief interview with EE Times, John Danforth, legal counsel for Rambus, said the company had 10 days to resubmit the evidence in the antitrust case. Though declining to elaborate on what action Rambus would take, he said that certain evidence in the case "could no longer be seen as confidential"hinting the company would continue its pursuit to have the evidence released.

Rambus has been embroiled in numerous lawsuits with leading memory chip suppliers for over half a decade, seeking royalty payments for its chip interface patents. The broadest of these efforts occurred in May 2004, when Rambus filed an antitrust suit against Hynix Semiconductor, Infineon Technologies, Micron Technology and Siemens AG in the superior court of the State of California.

Earlier Thursday, an Associated Press report noted Rambus' stock prices had soared on the hope that the San Francisco court would rule in favor of the company and order release of the documents.

At the close of trading Thursday on the Nasdaq exchange, Rambus' stock price was $32.05 per share, up $3.79 from a day earlier.

The court decision capped off a tumultuous day for Rambus, which earlier Thursday was hit with another lawsuit by Micron Technology Inc., this one filed in Italy for alleged strong-armed tactics Rambus employed there against Micron.

Micron had already filed suit against Rambus earlier this week in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in apparent retaliation for a suit by Rambus in January.

Several unnamed industry observers have rallied on both sides of the Micron-Rambus battle in response to the latest suits.

One pro-Rambus observer said, "Micron is scrambling, they're now throwing stuff against the wall."

Expressing a pro-Micron stance, another remarked in an e-mail, "I hope they (Micron) win their lawsuits against Rambus. It's encouraging to see that the European Patent office has revoked their patents, hopefully the U.S. Patent office will follow suit."

Rambus faces another test March 6, when a California court is slated to begin hearing testimony on a memory patent case involving Hynix.

- Spencer Chin
EE Times

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