There are few companies in the tech world as infamous as Rambus, an IP-only RAM development firm. For the better part of 10 years now they have been engaged in court cases with virtually every RAM and x86 chipset manufacturer around over the violation of their patents. Through a long series of events SDRAM did end up implementing RAMBUS technologies, and the American courts have generally upheld the view that in spite of everything that happened while Rambus was a member of the JEDEC trade group that their patents and claims against other manufacturers for infringement are legitimate. At this point most companies using SDRAM have settled with Rambus on these matters.

Since then Rambus has moved on to a new round of lawsuits, focusing on the aftermath of Rambus’s disastrous attempt to get RDRAM adopted as the standard RAM technology for computers. Rambus has long held that they did not fail for market reasons, but rather because of collusion and widespread price fixing by RAM manufacturers, who purposely wanted to drive Rambus out of the market in favor of their SDRAM businesses. The price fixing issue was investigated by the Department of Justice – who found the RAM manufacturers guilty – which in turn Rambus is using in their suits as further proof of collusion against Rambus.

The biggest of these suits was filed in 2004 against the quartet of Samsung, Infineon, Hynix, and Micron. In 2005 Infineon settled with Rambus for $150 million while in 2010 Samsung settled with Rambus for $900 million, leaving just Hynix and Micron to defend. That suit finally went to court in 2011, with Rambus claiming that collusion resulted in them losing $4 billion in sales, which as a result of California’s treble damage policy potentially put Hynix and Micron on the line for just shy of $12 billion in damages.

Today a verdict was finally announced in the case, and it was against Rambus. A 12 member jury found in a 9-3 vote that Hynix and Micron did not conspire against Rambus, effectively refuting the idea that RAM manufacturers were responsible for Rambus’s market failure. As Rambus’s business relies primarily on litigation – their own RAM designs bring in relatively little due to the limited use of RDRAM and XDR – this is a significant blow for the company.

Rambus can of course file an appeal, as they have done in the past when they’ve lost cases, but the consensus is that Rambus is extremely unlikely to win such an appeal. If that’s the case this could mean that this is the beginning of a significant shift in business practices for Rambus, as while they have other outstanding cases – most notably against NVIDIA – the anti-trust suit was the largest and most important of them. Not surprising their stock also took a heavy hit as a result, as it ended the day down 60%. Rambus winning the anti-trust suit had long been factored into the stock price, so the loss significantly reduced the perceived value of the company.

Source: The Wall Street Journal; Reuters; Businesweek

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  • Roland00Address - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    He only had himself to blame
    If you'd have been there, if you'd have seen it
    I betcha you would have done the same

    Rambus may have a legimate beef, but pretty much they are now a zombie company who only survive via suing people.
  • UpSpin - Thursday, November 17, 2011 - link

    sadly you're right. Rambus should have done what they did, and with the money they got and the improved SDRAM technology, improved their own technology, so it would become the better standard. But somehow they didn't and focused on suing only. And in the end they became a company people laugh about.
  • alandpost - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    "they have other outstanding cases – most notably against Rambus"

    Isn't "they" in this sentence, also Rambus?
  • Ryan Smith - Thursday, November 17, 2011 - link

    Indeed it is. I apparently have Rambus on the brain.

    The defendant in the suit is supposed to be NVIDIA.
  • Beenthere - Thursday, November 17, 2011 - link

    This company deserves to be put out of business for their patent trolling.
  • UpSpin - Thursday, November 17, 2011 - link

    they don't do patent trolling. They just fight for justice. And it seems they have enough reason to do so:
    "The price fixing issue was investigated by the Department of Justice – who found the RAM manufacturers guilty"

    So RAMBUS was suppressed, and now want that the companies bleed for doing this.
  • Wolfpup - Thursday, November 17, 2011 - link

    Are you KIDDING? This company is worse than a patent know the whole story, right? They participated in the development of various SDRAM standards FRAUDULENTLY to get some tech in SDRAM, and then turned around and sued people using it. They actually gave up that right when they participated, and participated for no other reason than to be able to sue companies later, and sue they have...and apparently won? They're unethical, at best, and should be shut down by the government.
  • Beenthere - Thursday, November 17, 2011 - link

    Must be a Rambust PR rep? Denial doesn't change reality.
  • UpSpin - Thursday, November 17, 2011 - link

    nope, but I admit that I don't know the full history of events regarding Rambus.
    But according to this article, Rambus was suppressed, so it's not about patent trolling.
    And if we forget the price (because according to the article and the court decision it was artificially held high) rambus seemed to be a superior product at the time it was introduced. And their current products don't seem that bad either, except that no ones licenses them. Mainly because Rambus fights against them because of the earlier bad relationship.
    I'm no DRAM expert, so I don't know it, but maybe we could have much more powerful rams by using Rambus, and maybe we would use Rambus (Intel preferred them initially) everywhere now if the RAM manufacturers hadn't suppressed Rambus, which, again, according to the court, they did and you totally ignore.
    I just don't want to agree with your black and white argumentation "Rambus is a patent troll because they sue others" But maybe, and it seems so, they have valid reasons to do so.
  • UpSpin - Thursday, November 17, 2011 - link

    EDIT: After reading the article posted on DailyTech, which describes everything in detail, I agree with your statement that Rambus seems to be a patent troll only now.

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