RealTime IT News

High Court Denies Infineon Vs. Rambus Appeal

The U.S. Supreme Court Monday denied a final plea by Infineon Technologies to revive its fraud case against rival Rambus .

The German-based semiconductor maker originally accused Rambus of deception while it was working with the JDEEC Solid State Technology Association -- a standards-setting board -- to develop DDR SDRAM memory technology.

The ruling means that Infineon has exhausted all possible avenues of appeal from the January 29, 2003 ruling of the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Virginia. The two sides have now agreed to stipulate to dismissal without prejudice.

"It is regrettable that the Court will not hear arguments in these matters, despite the evidence presented in the appeal and the separate briefs filed with the Court by representatives of commercial organizations and 15 States. The case now will be decided, again, by jury trial in the Federal Court for Virginia and we intend to vigorously pursue a full and fair resolution," Infineon said in a statement.

In its judgment, the high court issued no commentary but did confirm the lower court's ruling that Rambus does have a leg to stand on in its own patent claims suit against Infineon. The Court also rejected Infineon's fraud counterclaims, concluding that Rambus had not been shown to have violated the rules of an industry standard setting organization called JEDEC and that those rules showed a "staggering lack of defining details." The Federal Circuit also concluded that Rambus did not have applications or patents that read on any JEDEC standard during the relevant time.

Los Altos, Calif.-based Rambus, which specializes in high-speed chip-connection technologies, said it is pleased by the ruling and said it can now proceed with its infringement case against Infineon. That trial will focus on Rambus patents as defined by the Federal Circuit courts.

"Today's Supreme Court ruling is another positive step forward for Rambus," Rambus senior vice president and general counsel John Danforth said in a statement. "While we welcome any opportunity to resolve matters amicably rather than through the courts, we are pleased to have these JEDEC-related counterclaims behind us and we remain committed to taking the necessary steps to protect our intellectual property."

With a Supreme Court decision now rendered, AmTech Research analyst Erach Desai says there is an increased likelihood that the Richmond, Virginia Federal District Court will also provide a summary judgment in Rambus' favor, clearing the path for royalties on DDR and S-DRAMs.

"While we continued to believe that Rambus' patent portfolio would be eventually validated, we felt that the case was likely to drag on for years in the off-chance that the U.S. Supreme Court did elect to hear it," Desai said in a briefing to clients.

As for the Supreme Court's impact on the pending Federal Trade Commission's case, final argument documents were due yesterday, and the oral closing arguments are scheduled for October 8th. Desai says the FTC has been decidedly biased in favor of standards bodies, and looking for a linchpin case to prosecute, but the decision could be all for naught.

"In our opinion, the FTC trial has never really mattered much," he said. Even though the FTC can put up roadblocks for Rambus to collect royalties. In the extreme case, Rambus would appeal and this would eventually make its way to the U.,S. Supreme Court where "rule of law" would prevail."

The original argument arose from allegations concerning Rambus' 1991 - 1995 attendance at a standard setting body called JEDEC.

During Rambus' membership, the JEDEC developed and adopted a standard for synchronous dynamic random access memory (SDRAM).

According to reports, before, during, and after Rambus dropped its JEDEC membership, the company made repeated filings with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to ensure intellectual property rights to the SDRAM standard.

However, Rambus claims that during its membership with the JEDEC, it did not attempt in any way to influence or speed the progress of its patents through the committee process.

Once the SDRAM standard was adopted, Rambus made moves, which many say were legitimate claims, to either collect on royalties or sue those companies that refused to comply, which included Samsung, Hitachi, Hyundai, and Micron Technology .

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.