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FTC sets Rambus DDR SDRAM royalty rate

After three years, fee falls to zero

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The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has told Rambus how much the memory technology developer may levy in royalties on SDRAM and DDR SDRAM devices for the next three years, after which the company may not charge any royalties at all. Rambus said it was "disappointed" with the ruling and stated its plan to appeal against the ruling.

The FTC's order marks the latest stage in its epic anti-trust action against Rambus, which it embarked upon in June 2002. Rambus revealed the FTC's order, which demands that the company charge no more than "0.25 per cent for SDRAM products; 0.5 per cent for DDR SDRAM products, SDRAM memory controllers or other non-memory chip components; and one per cent for DDR SDRAM memory controllers or other non-memory chip components".

The order, which unless challenged will come into force in 60 days' time does not extend to DDR 2 products. It won't come into force, of course, because Rambus will challenge the verdict. It said it will ask for the order to be suspended temporarily pending the outcome of its appeal against the ruling.

The FTC formally judged Rambus guilty of monopolising four key memory technologies in August 2006. It said the company had deceived standards-setting body Jedec "by fostering the belief that Rambus neither had, nor was seeking, relevant patents that would be enforced against Jedec-compliant products," the FTC wrote last year.

"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," the organisation said. "Only then did Rambus reveal its patents – through patent infringement lawsuits against Jedec members who practiced the standard."

All of which Rambus denies. Today, it pointed to the findings of FTC Chief Administrative Law Judge Stephen McGuire's three-month Spring 2003 investigation into the FTC allegations, which he later, in February 2004, dismissed in its entirety. However, the FTC's investigators appealed against the ruling and won the right to proceed against Rambus.

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