Toshiba DDR Dramurai domino falls to Rambus

All in all, it's just another brick in the wall

Anyone old enough to remember the fab TV footage from the 70s when a new type of fever gripped the Japanese, and we saw gazillions of DIMM size dominoes falling all in a row?

Because, in news that has a great deal of relevance for the PC industry, Toshiba last night became the biggest memory player to bite the Rambus bullet and to license SDRAM (synchronous memory) and DDR (double data rate) memory from the Mountain View intellectual property machine.

Under the terms of the agreement, Toshiba will license high speed DDR and SDRAM memory interfaces invented by Rambus, and will pay through the nose for the privilege of so-doing. A press release from Rambus said: "The royalty rates are greater than the RDRAM compatible rates...and include royalties for SDRAM and for controllers that directly interface with SDRAM, as well as a license (sic) fee for the entire agreement."

It will also carry on paying Rambus Royale.

Didn't think that Rambus had the rights to such things? Cast your mind back to stories we ran earlier this year, particularly a court case still pending between Hitachi and Rambus. Rambus claims that DDR memory that is being produced or will be produced by Hitachi infringe its patents. Hitachi counterclaims that Rambus is infringing the Sherman anti-trust case.

The Rambus royalties that the Dramurai have to pay amount to under two per cent, and while it is not unusual for hi-tech firms to charge royalties, the difference here is that Rambus is an IP firm only.

The Toshiba agreement is almost certain to weaken Hitachi's case against Rambus, and, in the short term at least, could mean a sharp spike in SDRAM prices.

Other members of the Jedec memory trade association (of which Rambus was, once, a member), will be a-quivering in their boots at this move.

Sources said that Rambus wants triple damages from companies that infringe its DDR and SDRAM patents. The Dramurai, now that Toshiba has crumbled, would seem to be in some disarray.

NEC wants to buy Hitachi's DRAM outfit, but is being stymied by the litigation that continues. We can only presume Toshiba staff have either examined Rambus patents and think that the IP company is right in its belief, or that it wants to avoid a legal action where it may be forced to pay even more for the privilege of making synchronous memories... ®

  • Rambus (ticker: RMBS) has a conf call scheduled before the market opens in New York this morning. Expect to see its share price perform cartwheels and skip a light Fandango, whatever that is.
  • And two comments from our lovely readers since we filed this story. The first would make a Flame of the Week except it's always from the same psycho: "Toshiba will "pay through the nose" ... You just can't resist a negative spin. You will remain a dumbass your entire "journalistic" life. I hope someone in the memory business is paying you plenty to justify your existence as a techno-whore. I realize you are to stupid to understand why Ramus (sic) is going to win, so make the dough anyway you can.

The second, from a Yahoo board, is marginally less entertaining: "Rambus will get royalties for just about every bit of silicon short of
breast-implants". Silicon, of course, differs from silicone."