EU Raps Rambus on Pushy Patents

The Technical Board of Appeals of the European Patent Office (EPO) revoked one of Rambus’ patents on chip technology, the company acknowledged Thursday.

Los Gatos, Calif.-based Rambus , which specializes in high-speed chip-connection technologies, said the board revoked a patent on a technology called “access time register”

Rambus executives were traveling and could not be reached for comment. “Although disappointing, today’s ruling by the EPO is a small part of a larger picture,” John Danforth, senior vice president and general counsel for Rambus, said in a statement.

Erach D. Desai, an analyst with American Technology Research, called the ruling bizarre. In a written comment, he said the company expected the EPO to deny its request for a change in language. But it hadn’t anticipated a total revocation of the patent. The EPO will issue a written explanation of the ruling in four to ten weeks.

Rambus emphasized that the ruling does not affect its U.S. patents, which have been the subject of intense legal wrangling. Rambus has been cleared of fraud charges leveled by German-based semiconductor maker Infineon Technologies, which, along with chip makers Micron and Hynix, is battling to avoid paying royalties to Rambus.

In October, the U.S Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that Rambus did not mislead the JDEEC Solid State Technology Association, a standards board, about patents it held relating to DDR SDRAM memory technology, which became the industry standard.

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

In addition, FTC is pursuing a separate case against the company. The commission claims that the company violated federal antitrust laws by “deliberately engaging in a pattern of anti-competitive acts and practices that served to deceive an industry-wide standard-setting organization, specifically, not disclosing that it was in the process of seeking patents related to the proposed standards.”

In December 2002, it added destroying documents to the rap sheet. Rambusdenied the shedding charges, saying it acted properly under its “document retention” policy.

Desai said today’s ruling by the EPO has no bearing on the two key cases that matter in the U.S., a patent infringement suit brought by Rambus against Infineon, which got kicked back to a Virginia district court and is set for trial in May, and the FTC’s anti-competition case.

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