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Micron-Rambus case to begin in October

The court reschedules Micron's high-stakes fraud and patent-infringement lawsuit against the memory designer so it can digest findings in a similar case involving chipmaker Infineon.

The schedule for Micron Technology's high-stakes fraud and patent-infringement lawsuit against memory designer Rambus has been reset so the court can digest findings in a similar case involving chipmaker Infineon.

A U.S. District Court in Wilmington, Del., was scheduled to begin hearing part of the Micron case May 31 as part of a nonjury proceeding. Instead, hearings will begin on the original date of Oct. 29, said Micron representative Sean Mahoney. The case could be worth many millions of dollars.

The delay is so the court can review findings from a Virginia case involving similar claims between Rambus and Infineon. In that case, the judge threw out all of Rambus' claims, which alleged that Infineon violated Rambus patents in producing SDRAM, the most common type of memory used in current computers, and faster DDR DRAM.

The Virginia court later ruled against Rambus in a countersuit by Infineon that alleged Rambus committed fraud by failing to disclose required information on its designs to the Joint Electronic Devices Engineering Council (JEDEC), a trade group formed to set standards for computer-memory chips. The jury awarded Infineon $3.5 million in damages, but Judge Robert Payne is expected to reduce the award to $350,000 to conform with state law.

Payne is expected to rule next month on whether certain Rambus patents are enforceable given the fraud findings.

Mahoney said that decision and previous rulings in the Virginia case are likely to heavily influence Micron's case against Rambus, which involves similar fraud allegations.

"A lot of the claims are similar," he said. "We believe the Virginia fraud ruling is applicable to all the JEDEC members."

While the Virginia court's findings are not legally binding on other cases, they are expected to heavily influence decisions in the Micron case and a similar action against Hynix Semiconductor (formerly Hyundai Electronics).

The stakes are high for Rambus. According to royalty rates revealed during the Infineon trial, Rambus collects close to $2 for each 128MB DDR DRAM chip sold by chipmakers--including market leader Samsung--that have signed agreements with the company.

One analyst estimated that Rambus would reap as much as $1 billion in royalty payments, retroactive over the past decade, if it were successful in its case against Infineon.