Rambus wins latest legal round, beats back fraud claims

Rambus has prevailed once again in a case claiming it obtained crucial patents on memory technology through fraudulent means, which could set the stage for future royalties.

The latest round in everyone's favorite ongoing legal saga, Rambus versus the world, has tipped in Rambus' favor.

A jury ruled Wednesday in San Francisco that Rambus did not obtain patents for memory technology through fraud or anti-competitive means, in a blow to memory makers Hynix, Micron, and Nanya. Rambus has spent years trying to enforce its patents on memory used in just about every PC and server in the world, while fighting off claims that it obtained those patents through shady means.

At one point in the mid-1990s, Rambus and the memory industry sat down to work on setting standards for what would become the SDRAM memory technology. Rambus wound up breaking from the group and trying to get traction with its own technology, called RDRAM, but was stymied by a combination of problems at Intel and price-fixing inside the memory industry.

But after RDRAM failed to gain momentum, Rambus began suing the memory industry, claiming that the SDRAM standard used technology that Rambus had patented. The memory industry immediately cried foul, noting that since Rambus was a participant in the SDRAM standards-setting discussions as part of a group called JEDEC, it should have disclosed the fact that it held patents on technology the group was discussing.

Things looked bleak for Rambus for a while after Infineon won a 2001 jury verdict claiming fraudulent conduct. But over the last couple of years, Rambus has managed to convince several juries and appeals court judges that it had shown off its patented technology long before the standards-setting discussions took place, and that JEDEC's disclosure policy did not explicitly require participants to disclose their patent holdings. Cases have started to break in its favor, and some prominent memory companies gave up and signed licenses for Rambus' patents.

Micron said it would appeal Wednesday's decision, but Rambus' stock soared 39 percent for the day, on the likelihood the company would soon add to its roster of licensees.

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