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Chip Maker Rambus Used Deception, Judge Is Told

May 01, 2003|From Reuters

WASHINGTON — U.S. antitrust enforcers opened their case against Rambus Inc. on Wednesday, telling a judge that the company had used a campaign of deception to illegally monopolize key computer chip technologies.

Attorneys for the Federal Trade Commission told Administrative Law Judge Stephen McGuire that Rambus duped the industry into adopting its own patented computer chip technology as a standard.

As a result, the FTC attorneys argued, Rambus is in a position to reap billions of dollars from computer chip manufacturers such as Micron Technology Inc. and South Korea's Hynix Semiconductor Inc.

Rambus attorney Gregory Stone told the judge that computer chip makers were to blame for the dispute because they tried to expropriate Rambus' superior technology.

"We're here because Rambus wants fair compensation for [its] inventions," Stone said.

At issue is technology used for computer memory. In 1990 Rambus filed for a patent for a new memory technology called RDRAM. But it subsequently became a member of an industry group called JEDEC, which was trying to agree on a standard for another memory technology called SDRAM.

FTC lawyers came to the hearing armed with confidential notes written by Rambus' outside patent attorney. They cited instances in the mid-1990s in which they said the company had secretly applied to amend its RDRAM patent to cover technologies that JEDEC was considering for SDRAM.

Stone said the rules governing JEDEC did not require the company to disclose patents that it had applied for but had not yet been awarded.

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