RealTime IT News

Court Tosses Rambus' $306.5M Infringement Award

Just days before memory chip designer Rambus is scheduled to announce its quarterly results, a California district court has scrambled the numbers.

Judge Ronald Whyte of San Jose on Monday tossed out the $306.5 million in damages awarded to the Los Altos, Calif.-based Rambus in its patent infringement suit against Hynix Semiconductor.

While upholding the infringement decision by the jury, Whyte ruled the damages were excessive.

The judge gave Rambus the option of accepting a $133.6 million award or face another trial for damages.

Rambus spokesperson Linda Ashmore said the company was evaluating the decision.

Ashmore said while Rambus has no comment as yet, she indicated the matter is likely to be mentioned in the company's Wednesday quarterly results.

The April jury verdict found that the Korean-based Hynix infringed on 10 Rambus patents involving SDRAM, DDR SDRAM and DDR2 memory products.

During the damages phase of the long running patent battle between Rambus and Hynix, Rambus expert witness David J. Teece testified the $306.5 million in damages sought by the company was justified since they were based on "revolutionary technologies."

"Although there may have been revolutionary aspect to some of Rambus' patents (e.g., the use of a narrow multiplexed bus), no evidence established a basis for including any particular amount because of the alleged revolutionary technology," Whyte wrote in his decision.

The bitter legal dispute began in 1996 when Intel decided to use Rambus memory products.

DRAM manufacturers contended Rambus' technology was too expensive and adopted the DDR2 chip as a new standard.

Rambus claimed the DDR2 used patented Rambus technology.

The courtroom fight began four years later when Hynix sought a declaratory judgment that 11 Rambus patents were invalid.

Rambus countersued and, at one point, the case involved 59 patent claims from 14 Rambus products.

In addition to the Hynix case, Rambus filed infringement lawsuits against Micron, Samsung and Nanya. Rambus is also suing the three in separate actions involving more advanced memory products.

In addition, Rambus has a pending antitrust case against Micron, Hynix and Samsung, claiming the three were part of an alleged boycott against Rambus products.