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U.S. Supreme Court hands Rambus a win

Court declines to hear appeal by the Federal Trade Commission in seven-year antitrust battle with chip designer.

The U.S. Supreme Court handed chip designer Rambus a victory Monday, when it refused to hear an appeal by the Federal Trade Commission that alleged the chip designer violated antitrust laws under the Sherman Act.

For Rambus, it ends a seven-year battle with the Federal Trade Commission over its Sherman Act litigation, which alleged in 2002 that the chipmaker intentionally withheld its patent plans from a standards body, which later gave the green light to some of its technology that is now found in the vast majority of PCs and servers around the world.

"It's a good day for us," said Thomas Lavelle, Rambus general counsel. "The Sherman II claims are dead and over."

Lavelle, however, noted it may not be the last that the chipmaker will see of the FTC.

Over the years, the FTC has periodically told Rambus it may bring a case against the chipmaker under Section 5 of the FTC Act, Lavelle said. But he noted the underlying facts in that type of case would be the same as what was used for its failed Sherman Act II antitrust case. Section 5 cases allege deceptive and unfair practices in commerce.

Lavelle, in fact, may indeed get a repeat visit from the FTC.

David Wales, the FTC's Bureau of Competition director, said in a statement:

This is not the decision we were hoping for, and we are reviewing our options.

In the meantime, Rambus' patent infringement lawsuits against memory chip makers Samsung Electronics, Micron Technology, Hynix Semiconductor, and Nanya Technology are still ongoing.

These cases, which could potentially yield Rambus millions of dollars should a jury find its patents are good and valid, were put on hold earlier this month after a U.S. District Court judge ordered them postponed indefinitely, pending appeals of earlier court decisions.

Prior to the postponement, those cases were set for trial this month.

The Supreme Court victory does little to give Rambus an added edge in its patent infringement case against the chipmakers. Last March, Rambus deflected similar allegations brought on by the chipmakers in its patent infringement case.

The Supreme Court decision, at most, continues to keep the memory chip makers from using that argument as a defense.