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Rambus Accuses Rivals of Price Fixing

Computer memory maker Rambus today filed a $1 billion anti-trust lawsuit against four of its competitors, accusing each of conspiracy to drive its RDRAM technology out of the market.

The Los Altos, Calif.-based company names Micron Technology, Infineon Technologies, Siemens and Korea's Hynix in the 36-page complaint filed in the Superior Court of the State of California in San Francisco. The suit outlines the charges as conspiracy to restrict output and price fixing; conspiracy to monopolize the marketplace; intentional interference with prospective economic advantage; and unfair competition.

The lawsuit stems partially from a patent lawsuit Rambus levied against Infineon as well as a separate investigation by the Federal Trade Commission, which is looking into charges of collusion in the international DRAM manufacturing sector.

"From substantial written evidence already in the public record, we believe that these memory manufacturers colluded illegally, thereby limiting consumer choice and depriving our RDRAM products of the opportunity to compete fairly in the marketplace," said John Danforth, senior vice president and general counsel for Rambus.

Danforth told internetnews.com that the overlap between Rambus' case and the FTC's is a string of e-mails between the four companies, including one from a Micron executive that he and Rambus "essentially believe admits to conspiracy to price fixing." Phrases like "RDRAM killing" and "the plan is working" come up in some of the e-mails.

Micron and Infineon issued statements refuting Rambus' claims. Representatives with Siemens and Hynix were not immediately available for comment.

"This is yet another example highlighting Rambus' pattern of using litigation as its only real business model," Infineon spokesman Christoph Liedtke said in a statement.

"Rambus failed in the marketplace because of excessive manufacturing costs and minimal RDRAM demand," Dave Parker, Micron's director of corporate communications, added. "Several memory manufacturers, including the world's largest, continue to produce RDRAM products sufficient to meet its limited, worldwide market demand. It is unfortunate that Rambus is trying to blame the market failure of its RDRAM technology on others, like Micron, who ultimately responded to marketplace demands."

Instead, Micron believes that Rambus is attempting to deflect attention away from its own ongoing suit with the FTC.

In its lawsuit against Rambus, the FTC alleged that Rambus intentionally deceived others in the DRAM industry to undermine the efforts by the Joint Electron Devices Engineering Council (JEDEC). The FTC accused Rambus of deliberately failing to disclose critical information to the standards group in an attempt to gain a monopoly over the DRAM industry and extort exorbitant royalties from DRAM manufacturers and consumers.

A retrial date for the Rambus v. Infineon case had been set for June 10 in Virginia, but Federal Judge Robert Payne said there are a number of pretrial issues that remain to be resolved and postponed the proceedings until sometime in the fall.