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RealTime IT News

Infineon Denied Rehearing in Rambus Lawsuit

A federal court of appeals Friday denied a request by German-based semiconductor maker Infineon Technologies to revive its patent infringement case against rival Rambus .

Judges with the U.S. appellate court in Virginia stood by its January 29 ruling, which cleared Los Altos, Calif.-based Rambus of fraud while it was working with the JDEEC Solid State Technology Association -- a standards-setting board -- to develop DDR SDRAM memory technology. Rambus participated in the standard setting process between 1991-95.

Rambus, which specializes in high-speed chip-connection technologies, said it is pleased by the ruling.

"We felt the original opinion was well considered and correct," Rambus general counsel John Danforth told Reuters. "We think it's a significant further step forward for the company in resolving the litigation."

Infineon spokeswoman Leslie Davis called the decision "unfortunate" and said the company "will continue to defend ourselves in this matter through all appropriate legal means."

But those legal means may be dwindling as Danforth noted Infineon's litigation options against Rambus have been exhausted, short of an appeal to the Supreme Court.

The nagging detail for the plaintiffs in Rambus v. Infineon, is that Rambus did not disclose its patents until after leaving the JEDEC, by which time SDRAM was already poised as the next industry standard for memory chips.

Some say that if Rambus had disclosed its vested interest in the progress of SDRAM, that the standard would never have been adopted.

Infineon was one of the first SDRAM manufacturers to step forward and accuse Rambus of fraud by "gaming" the entire JEDEC process. Rambus then sued Infineon for copyright infringement.

A counterclaim resulted and the trial court awarded Infineon more than $7 million for attorney fees and damages.

National trade groups are also watching the case.

Last month, Boston-based law firm Lucash, Gesmer & Updegrove LLP filed a "friend of the court" brief on behalf of six major standard setting organizations (SDOs).

Those SDOs include the Open GIS Consortium, the IMS Global Learning Consortium, Inc., the PCI Industrial Computer Manufacturers Group, and The Open Group.

In June of 2002, the FTC charged Rambus with violating federal antitrust laws by deliberately engaging in a pattern of anti-competitive acts and practices, resulting in alleged adverse effects on competition and consumers.

The FTC claimed that Rambus forfeited its right to a trial because of the company's actions in allegedly destroying documents that were essential to an FTC antitrust action.

The FTC trial is now scheduled to begin April 29.

Short for Synchronous DRAM, a type of DRAM that can run at much higher clock speeds than conventional memory. SDRAM actually synchronizes itself with the CPU's bus and is capable of running at 133 MHz, about three times faster than conventional FPM RAM, and about twice as fast EDO DRAM and BEDO DRAM. SDRAM is replacing EDO DRAM in many newer computers.

Editor's note: internetnews.com correspondent Gretchen Hyman contributed to this report.