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Rambus CEO surprises world+dog

Says he's not a lawyer

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Mountain View law firm Rambus, Rambus and Rambus held a conference call last week in which a couple of surprising - nay unbelievable - statements were made.

CEO Geoff Tate replied to an analyst's question about how much time he spent on legal issues as opposed to looking at future technology with a very unlikely: "In recent weeks I've only been spending ten per cent of my time on litigation," adding: "I'm not a lawyer."

Of course you're not, Geoff. That's why 90 per cent of the teleconference was taken up with legal issues.

Tate also highlighted Rambus' preference for filing patent infringement suits outside the US because the waiting list for court time was typically far shorter, and not at all because the company faces a particularly tough judge if it returns to the US International Trade Commission with another patent claim.

That's why cases are due to be heard in Germany, Italy and France over the next few weeks. In Italy, Tate said a preliminary injunction against Micron could be in place as early as April 2001, which would prevent the company making or selling chips in Italy.

"I sometimes wonder if the boards of these companies are aware of the consequences of losing a patent suit against us would be," growled Tate. "We have eleven very strong fundamental patents."

Watch it, Intel

He also warned Intel boss Craig Barrett that he could be in for trouble if Intel builds a chip enabling DDR SDRAM memory to be used with the Pentium 4 if that memory interface infringes Rambus patents.

Intel plans to make a DDR chipset for the P4, in addition to an SDRAM one, by the second half of 2001. But Rambus says it hasn't granted Intel the right to use its SDRAM and DDR patents.

"Our agreement with Intel was driven by their desire to license our technology for Rambus-compatible chips," said Tate. "At the same time, like many companies, Intel asked for a very broad patent license and we refused to give them such a license for any competitive memory interface technology.

"Our business was memory interface technology, and we were only going to license from our patents to build and sell Rambus-compatible memory interface chips. Nothing that infringed our patents that was competitive with our memory interface technology is licensed to Intel."

However, Rambus has given Intel limited rights to use its patents in logic chips as long as they didn't include a memory interface, Tate added.

Other companies aren't in such a privileged position.

Rambus has already demanded that a number of as-yet-unnamed logic companies should start paying royalties.

"We are negotiation with several companies that are both DRAM companies, and companies that are only logic companies," Tate said. "We feel in many of those cases that negotiations are progressing quite well."

And as if the company didn't have enough lawyers already, Rambus is currently advertising for yet more legal eagles here. ®

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