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Rambus awarded $306.9M in Hynix case

Posted: 26 Apr 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Spencer Chin? Rambus? patent? Hynix Semiconductor? SDRAM?

A federal jury has awarded Rambus Inc. more than $306.9 million in a patent infringement dispute with South Korean chipmaker Hynix Semiconductor Inc.

A jury in the U.S. District Court for Northern California in San Jose agreed with Rambus's claim that Hynix infringed a number of patents covering fundamental aspects of dynamic random access memory, or DRAM, the main type of memory used in computers. The jury began deliberating on the month-long case, but did not reach a verdict until early this week (April 24).

The damage award covers only Hynix sales of SDRAM, DDR SDRAM and DDR2 memory products to the United States between June 2000 and the end of 2005. It does not yet include any pre-judgement interest, which is a typical element of damage requiring further consideration by a trial judge.

Rambus had argued during the trial that Hynix owes it between $108.5 million and $868 million in damages.

The company has also asked for permanent injunctive relief against Hynix to stop the manufacture, use or import of infringing Hynix memory products. The injunction will likely be addressed after the third phase of the trial, where Hynix will argue Rambus's patents are invalid because the company used anticompetitive practices to gain its position in the industry.

"We are very pleased with today's result'and very thankful for the considered attention of the jury and the court in this lengthy trial," said John Danforth, senior vice president and legal counsel at Rambus, in a statement.

The verdict is expected to give Rambus leverage to press similar cases against Samsung Electronics Co., Micron Technology Inc. and Nanya Technology Corp. It also improves Rambus's chances of winning royalties it seeks from manufacturers in the memory industry.

In a conference call late Monday, Danforth cited information from documents from a number of memory suppliers that indicated Rambus' patents were being examined and adopted for their products, without signing royalty agreements.

One of those documents was from Hynix, outlining specifications for memory products that contained footnote references to Rambus' SDRAM spec, Danforth stated during the call.

"We continue to hold out an olive branch to resolve the matter short of a full-scale trial," he said, hopeful that memory chip makers still engaged in litigation with Rambus will now instead decide to sign license agreements and avoid further costly litigation.

At press time, Hynix has not responded to the ruling, but reports indicate the chip maker is likely to appeal.

The case began in August 2000 when Hynix sued Rambus seeking declaratory judgments that 11 patents are invalid and not infringed. Hynix countersued, and eventually the case was expanded to include Hynix's SDRAM, DDR and DDR2 memory products and 59 patent claims from 14 Rambus patents.

In pre-trial proceedings, the trial judge granted summary judgment favoring Rambus as to 11 of the original 59 patent claims, and allowed ten to go before a trial jury. Two were the subject of the favorable summary judgment motion.

- Spencer Chin
EE Times

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