Hynix Gets Delay in Rambus Patent Suit

A California judge has delayed a patent infringement trial pitting Rambus against Hynix Semiconductor while the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sorts out royalty rates for computer memory.

Judge Ronald Whyte of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on Tuesday delayed the case until February or later. Hynix has asked the court to rule that some Rambus synchronous dynamic RAM patents are invalid.

Rambus in April won US$306.5 million in patent infringement damages against Hynix, but the judge in July ruled that the jury award was excessive, and Rambus could either accept a reduced $133.5 million award or go to trial again. Then on Aug. 2, the FTC ruled that Rambus had unlawfully created a monopoly for technologies used in the DRAM memory chip standard.

The FTC presumably will set royalty rates and could prompt a settlement between the two companies, Whyte wrote in his ruling Tuesday. "This case cries out for a business solution, as the future success of each company would appear to depend, in significant part, on a business relationship between the two," the judge wrote.

Rambus hopes "such an industry-wide resolution can be achieved," Robert Kramer, acting general counsel at Rambus, said in a statement. But if the case continues to trial, Rambus will argue that the FTC’s decision should not affect the case, he said.

The FTC in 2002 charged Rambus with violating antitrust laws by deceiving a standards-setting organization. While participating in the Joint Electron Device Engineering Council’s (JEDEC’s) process of setting the SDRAM and double data rate SDRAM standards, Rambus deliberately hid its relevant patents and patent applications, the FTC said. JEDEC then set the standards without knowing that Rambus held patents relevant to the standards, the FTC alleges. Rambus later revealed its patents during patent infringement lawsuits against JEDEC members that used the standard.

Since 2000, Rambus has sued several SDRAM manufacturers for patent infringement.

-Grant Gross, IDG News Service (Washington Bureau)

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