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Rambus soothes EC ire with lower prices

Antitrust charges dropped

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The European Commission is letting Rambus off the hook now that the US firm has offered to cap licensing rates for some of its industry-standard chip technology.

Europe's top antitrust regulator said Wednesday it has dropped charges against Rambus, makes no finding of liability, and will levy no fine against the company.

Under the EC settlement announced on Wednesday, Rambus promises to offer licenses with maximum royalty rates worldwide for certain memory types and memory controllers going forward.

The American memory chip designer has been fighting allegations that it intentionally concealed that it had patents and patent applications connected to DRAM chips, which later became an industry standard. It's accused of charging abusive licensing rates for the technology once its "patent ambush" was sprung.

Rambus has now agreed to charge no royalties for the single data rate (SDR) and double data rate (DDR) chip standards that were adopted when Rambus was a member of the standards-setting body. In addition, it will place a 1.5 per cent maximum royalty rate for later generations of DRAM standards, DDR2 and DDR3 — down from its original rate of 3.5 per cent. Rambus has agreed to offer this rate worldwide.

The EC settlement, however, is unlikely to have an effect on US lawsuits filed against Rambus by memory makers. An EC press release about the deal states the commission is "not taking any position on ongoing litigation involving Rambus, such as, for example that linked to patent law."

Rambus' European settlement follows a victory against antitrust regulators in the US. After seven years of battling Rambus in court, the US Federal Trade Commission in May officially dropped charges against the firm after repeatedly failing to show adequate evidence that the royalty rates Rambus was charging resulted in a less competitive market. ®

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