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FTC slams Rambus' memory 'monopoly'

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The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has filed its latest installment in the As the Rambus Turns saga. The Feds have found that Rambus illegally monopolized four key technologies found in DRAM chips.

Today's FTC ruling builds on four years of legal wrangling with Rambus. The commission had accused Rambus of deceiving the memory standard-setting body JEDEC (Joint Electron Device Engineering Council) by failing to disclose intentions to patent technology that would eventually be part of the DDR SDRAM specification. These past claims have been confirmed by the FTC's unanimous ruling today against Rambus.

"Rambus's conduct was calculated to mislead JEDEC members by fostering the belief that Rambus neither had, nor was seeking, relevant patents that would be enforced against JEDEC-compliant products," the FTC wrote in its decision."

“Through its successful strategy, Rambus was able to conceal its patents and patent applications until after the standards were adopted and the market was locked in. Only then did Rambus reveal its patents – through patent infringement lawsuits against JEDEC members who practiced the standard.

This case has dragged on and on with Rambus actually winning a round here and there. In February of 2004, for example, a judge tossed out the FTC's anti-trust case against Rambus. That temporarily cleared the way for Rambus to seek patent royalties from some memory makers and to battle others - such as Infineon and Micron - in court.

The FTC appealed that decision and has worked to introduce new evidence in its proceedings against Rambus.

The commission now looks to figure out an appropriate penalty that will cover "the substantial competitive harm that Rambus’s course of deceptive conduct has inflicted.”

Rambus maintains that it did not deceive JEDEC at all. Rather, it made superior technology that rivals then allegedly misappropriated.

"“We are disappointed with aspects of today’s ruling, but are focused on the remedy stage and believe that, if the Commission tries to set royalty rates, we can demonstrate our rates have been reasonable and fair," said Rambus senior legal advisor John Danforth.

Proving its dislike for Rambus, the FTC closed out its statement on today's ruling by dishing out an unusual parting jab.

“Rambus’s abuse of JEDEC’s standard-setting process was intentional, inappropriate, and injurious to competition and consumers alike." ®

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