Intel renews Rambus patent licence

Eliminates potential hindrance to shipping Brookdale DDR, presumably

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Intel has just renewed its patent cross-licensing agreement with Rambus - in plenty of time to prevent there being any impediment to the shipment of the DDR SDRAM version of its i845 chipset, aka Brookdale.

Terms of the deal were not revealed, but Intel has obviously had to stump up some cash, hence the "positive material impact on Rambus' current financial quarter" that the two companies' joint statement mentions.

Rambus will say later today just how much that will involve.

What is known about the agreement is that it supersedes the two firms' previous contract. The last one essentially gave Intel the right to use Rambus memory technology, which is subsequently did in its Pentium 4-oriented i850 chipset. The terms of that agreement forbade Intel from releasing products based on competing memory technologies before the end of 2001.

Hence, in part, the delay with the DDR version of the i845. Intel will be formally launching the part early next year, to be seen to be complying with the terms of the Rambus deal. In fact it will be shipping the part during Q4 this year, to ensure that mobo makers and PC vendors have had the product long enough to make systems based upon available on the day of the official launch.

We can't see that compulsive litigator Rambus allowing Intel to break the letter of its agreement while obeying its spirit, and we can well imagine that it has been the driving force behind this new, financially advantageous contract.

The new deal extends the original one to include, in Rambus CEO Geoff Tate's words, the company's "other memory, communications and backplane inventions as well".

For its part, Intel's Craig Barrett says this "broad agreement" (ie. nothing specific) will "help Intel continue to be a leader in providing high-performance chipsets".

It's all a bit vague, isn't it? If Intel is so keen on Rambus' other technology, why didn't it license it before? And Intel certainly doesn't need to buy Rambus' support for Infiniband.

No, it has all the hallmarks of a deal on DDR, and we can well see why the now memory-agnostic Intel would hand over what to it will no doubt be a little small change and dress up a deal with Rambus this way. ®


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