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Rambus Losing In Court 92

Posted by Hemos
from the good-news dept.
duplicate-nickname writes "Finally some good news on the patent font. A US district court tossed out most of Rambus' patent infingement claims against Infineon. The judge also states that even if Infineon has infringed on the remaining patents, they didn't do so willfully."
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Rambus Losing In Court

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    In a nutshell, Rambus feels:

    All your RAM are belong to us.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Intel still has a love-hate relationship with Rambus and is still touting RDRAM as the next gen ram technology despite its cost and potential technical flaws. It's pretty hard to boycott intel. Also, I believe that SDRAM chip makers must pay royalties to Rambus. So, you'd have to boycott all SDRAM.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Unfortunately for anyone who submitted to Rambus, this case probably won't change their situation. A failed patent defense doesn't automatically undo any licensing agreements already signed

    unless the liscensing agreements state that it does. In this case all or almost all of the dram manufacturers put clauses in that stated that no payments would be made if rambus lost a patent case. If any of these companies have paid rambus and rambus has to reimburse them then this may bankrupt the company. We can only hope...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @04:48AM (#254124)
    Rambus brow beats a bunch of vendors into bailing them out of their unsuccessful products by extorting license fees for SD-RAM related "patents" they submarined into the standards body. But these fees are conditional on the success of Rambus prevailing in courts...

    Doh!

    It sounds like a business method NOT to patent!
  • ..was that, depending on how the jury rules (should Rambus be convicted of fraud), certain Rambus employees could face jail time for all this.

    - A.P.

    --
    Forget Napster. Why not really break the law?

  • Haven't you read previous articles about this? No on'e s stealing RAMBus's technology - they sat in on the JEDEC meetings where SDRAM technology was being devised, then patented stuff they heard about at the meetings. They have no right to backstab these companies who are trying to implement technology openly, so please don't claim they do.

    That's the trouble with doing stuff in an open fashion - there's always someone who comes along who's just out to screw everyone else.
    _____

    Sam: "That was needlessly cryptic."
  • Rambus does its own research, and so employs a large number of engineers. Here is their corporate profile: http://yahoo.marketguide.com/mgi/busidesc.asp?rt=b usidesc&rn=A13DC [marketguide.com]
  • by pod (1103) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @08:53AM (#254128) Homepage
    I actually did some digging, very basic stuff that most people don't bother with. The JEDEC website (http://www.jedec.org/ [jedec.org]) has a lot of information in pdf format, if you care to sign up. Published standards, minutes and regulations are available for free download.

    First of all, basic rules. The legal guide [jedec.org] (and other documents) stipulate that members will participate in good faith (Section C.1) and no restraint of trade activities of any kind will take place (Section A.1), and that JEDEC will not police or audit its members or their reports to the organization (Section E). It's a pretty open organization.

    Now for the heavy lifting. The JEDEC Manual [jedec.org] has a lot of interesting stuff in it, especially in Section 7.3 which deals with use of Patented Products. First and foremost, JEDEC does not care if patented tech is used, but it does require that the holder agree to grant licenses freely or for a reasonable fee. And as some people have been asking, members must disclose 'any knowledge they may have of patents, or pending patents, that might be involved in the work they are undertaking.' (emphasis mine) Also notice the word 'might', I assume this means if you're not sure, say so anyways, good faith and disclosure and all that. So all members are aware of this clause, it is quite important because the front cover of all publications must include a blurb about patent compliance, all tech referencing patented technology must be noted, and footnotes must say 'compliance with this section of the document requires the use of patent No. xxxx' (or patent has been applied for...), this is described in Section 7.3.1

    FYI and draw our own conclusions (IANAL).

  • About 4 weeks ago, I think certain types of memory prices started tumbling. I'd just had a system specced out, and the next morning ddr memory fell through the floor. Initially, crucial.com (micron's retail subsidiary) wasn't merely below the best prices for generic memory on pricewatch (for generic!), but *way* below. It's about $140 for 256mb of ddr memory at the moemnt, regular or ecc..

    .
    also down is sodimm memory (for laptops). We got a pair of 256mb's for $187 each for this laptop from crucial; they'd been noticably higher a few days earlier..

    .
    hawk, economist, who loves price wars (but already moderated this thread and must post anonymously)

    (but it unmoderated anyway, sohere it is without anonymity!)

  • Here is the problem. They were "obligated" by what? A sense of honesty and fair play? If they were truly OBLIGATED as members of JDEC, then they should now be open to lawsuits, pummelling, boiling in oil, and forced anal sex with large livestock for what they did.

    UNFORTUNATELY, none of those things can happen. Does anybody have any idea whether the JDEC agreement has any teeth? And if not, what good is it, and what freaking moron agreed to that? It's pretty obvious by now that these standards bodies and joint efforts MUST have strong legal bindings, because the stakes are way too high to allow any one player to take advantage of the market like this. With Microsoft and Netscape running roughshod over W3 (and pretty much every other standards body that made the mistake of getting involved), you'd think that people would have had a clue before entering into partnerships like that.
  • "That's a screwed up statement, why, if nobody stole the idea from rambus, should they be entitled to anything?"

    Because that's how patents work. Copyright implies that your work must be derived or copied from mine to be infringing. Patents however just say it must be the same thing produced at a latter date.

    Simply put an illiterate blind man on a desert island can violate the patent of somebody he has never herd of. Doesn't matter if he never read the patent or saw a device from the author of said patent.

    --
    Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum viditur.
    Whatever is said in Latin sounds profound.

  • by Keith Russell (4440) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {llessur.htiek}> on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @05:14AM (#254132) Journal
    I think Rambus gambled and lost on the economy. They timed their suits with a sudden downturn in Asian economic markets. The Dramurai from Japan, Korea, and Taiwan didn't have the financial stability needed for a drawn-out lawsuit, and were forced to yield. IIRC, one of the Koreans (Hyundai or Samsung?) held out for a while, but was the last Asian company to cave.

    Notice, however, the two companies that didn't cave when Rambus' lawyers came knocking? The two not based in Asia: Micron (USA) and Infineon (Germany). Rambus hoped that markets worldwide would suffer from Asia's hard times, sapping Micron's and Infineon's strength. Unfortunately for Rambus, Europe and Wall Street recovered very quickly, and Rambus got the last thing they wanted: A real, live, honest-to-God court battle.

    Unfortunately for anyone who submitted to Rambus, this case probably won't change their situation. A failed patent defense doesn't automatically undo any licensing agreements already signed. IANAL, so I ask you this: What changes because the judge invoked RICO? Does that open the door for the Dramurai to have those license agreements revoked, or bring criminal charges against Rambus execs and lawyers?

    We're not scare-mongering/This is really happening - Radiohead
  • Rambus is an Intellectual Property (IP) company.

    They don't actually produce DRAM, they simply license their RDRAM technology to DRAM makers, and have recently started charging fees for SDRAM production as well, based on their questionable patents.


    It is possible to have a brilliant idea, patent it, and have everybody use it a few years down the line, and have them pay royalties for the invention.

    It is NOT possible to own dozens of patents in an area where you haven't produced anything yourself.

    Say, Micron, being in the industry for a decade might own 5, 10, 20 or 100 patents in the area. They are in the field, and they have full-time experts trying to improve on what they already can. And they can test what they think up. Lots of brilliant ideas end up unusable because the drawbacks that you find if you actually try to use it weigh out the advantages.

    Now when I first heard about rambus, it was a neat idea. That was a one-man effort. And it's possible that they got enough funding to put 20 or 100 experts in a room and tell them "now go and invent something". But without them actually designing and making the chips, it is doubtful that they would come up with anything patentable.

    Maybe one or two, but certainly not a dozen or more.

    Anyway, that's what I think.

    Roger.
  • by trb (8509) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @05:48AM (#254134)
    In the case of willfull infringement, [lawnotes.com] the patent owner may be entitled to treble (3x) damages.
  • Wow, that's almost half the price the local shop was quoting me. I tend to buy my parts locally because it's very nice to have a store to walk into.

  • Hey, I'm an AMD fanboy and I caught that fundamental stupidity. DDR memory costs a fortune, and I know it doesn't have to, and that irritates me no end. I just bought a nice AMD system, and I would've gotten a DDR system if the memory weren't a little more than twice as much as non-DDR RAM.

    These stupid patent things cost everybody to feed a parasite.

  • by sharkey (16670) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @07:44AM (#254137)
    You forgot the FOX network.

    "And we can't watch FOX because they own those chemical weapons plants in Assyria!"
    --Homer Simpson

    --
  • Fortunately, in a case like this one, the judge doesn't need to know that much about the technology. The issues involved are very narrow, & the patent uses very specific language. Because of this, over the course of the trial, the judge can fairly easily learn what he needs to know. This is much different then a case like the MS antitrust case, since the issue there are much more broad & subtle. There, a good, advance understanding of the issues at hand are much more important.
  • by CSC (31551) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @04:38AM (#254139)
    What exactly is the span of these three patents, tech-wise? Could anyone shed some light on that?

    And on a related matter, what could Infineon risk if they end up guilty of accidentally infringing on these patents?

  • I'm very happy to hear this news. I got anoyed about the policy of RAM bus. I hope this will also wake up other companies that try to make money by suing other companies. No way i would every use their technology. Happely it also sucks. To slow and to expensive. DDR ram seems to be on the winning end right now.
  • I'd even go as far to state that a claim of infringement on a patent related to something you might 'accidentally stumble upon' probably says more about the patent itself. Maybe the patent is too broad, or it covers something which is 'obvious and/or trivial to someone skilled in the art'?
  • by werdna (39029) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @05:19AM (#254142) Journal
    If you are found liable for willful infringement, as opposed to non-willful infringement, then the judge may enhance the computation of actual damages to an amount not exceeding thrice the actual damages; and in an exceptional case may grant to the plaintiff an award of attorney fees as well.
  • by werdna (39029) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @05:26AM (#254143) Journal
    once you consider what happened here. This is just what lawyers call a "narrowing of the issues," and hardly a dispositive ruling. The finding of no willful infringement probably stings, however.

    Rambus had a bunch of patents. Threw 'em all at the defendants. Wouldn't agree to limit the number of patents or claims prior to trial. At trial, plaintiff only addressed a narrow number of claims in a few of the patents. [It would be advocacy suicide to try to prove up a zillion claims from a zillion patents].

    Unsurprisingly, after plaintiff rested its case, the defendants moved to dismiss all the counts for all the patents on the grounds that Rambus didn't meet its burden of going forward. The judge agreed with respect to all the claims of some of the patents, and some of the claims of the remaining. But several patents, and many claims, remain.

    A defendant needs to infringe but one claim of one patent to be liable for infringement and subject to an injunction.

    So, after half a trial, we have narrowed the issue to the remaining claims. But defendant's position on liability remains just as precarious as before.
  • Do I believe Rambus should spend more time inovating and less time litigating? Of course. But they didn't have the 20 billion dollars to startup a manufacturing plant so they licensed the technology to a company that did. Shouldn't they be able to claim the 00.75% royalty that they are asking for?

    You are mistaken if you think that a semiconductor manufacturer needs to own a fab.

    Most semiconductor companies are 'fabless-foundries'. That is they design and sell the circuits, but outsource the manufacturing. (as opposed to selling or licencing IP only)
  • It seems that Rambus is now the patent and litigation company. Do they even sell memory anymore? :)

    AFAIK, they never did. Rambus is an IP company, which means it has a few engineers (maybe), a handful of patents, and an army of lawyers. They don't actually produce any tangible product.

    I don't know if there's an active boycott of Rambus products, but I think there should be.

    Not buying products based on Rambus' technologies makes plenty of sense from a price/performance standpoint. An Athlon of moderate to high speed combined with DDR SDRAM is the fastest x86 setup you can get for the vast majority of apps. (There are a few (very few) apps which can run faster on a P4, but they're definitely outside ±3.)

  • It's pretty hard to boycott intel.

    Is it? The last Intel processor I bought was a 12-MHz 286 back in '90 or '91. I've bought several different AMD and Cyrix processors since then and haven't regretted any of them. I'll allow that everything I've bought from the 386SX-25 up through the K6-200 was purchased mainly because it was the cheaper alternative, but the K6-2-300 and K6-III-450 were bought in part because they weren't Intel parts (and they deliver more than adequate integer performance; floating-point performance is OK, but I'm not a gamer). The 1.0-GHz Athlon I'm running now is faster, across-the-board, than any P!!! you can get, and gives P4s clocked 30-50% faster a run for their money. That the Athlon is not from Intel is an added bonus.

  • by NetJunkie (56134) <.jason.nash. .at. .gmail.com.> on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @04:46AM (#254147)
    If you unintentionally infringe on a patent you pay the patent holder damages. If you intentionally infringe on a patent you pay up to 3x damages.

    So if you infringe on someone's patent, make sure you don't have any paperwork saying you knew about it before.
  • why didn't they point out their patents so long ago when open standards were being created

    Don't get me wrong.... I hate RAMBUS too, but... It was only a patent application at the time, and they had no guarantee that it would be granted. (It would have been nice to disclose the application, though.)

  • Hopefully, the other memory companies that settled with RAMBUS will try and reverse their situation. I think they will wait to see the end of this case. All in all, this is a deffinately blow to RAMBUS' scheme to increase their bottomline with royalties!
  • B/c you didn't actually kill anyone, so why would we punish you as if you did?
  • I dunno about that. I think the problem intel is having with AMD is that AMD is making better, faster chips, for a lower cost. I'm not sure the RAM part of it effects the processor battle.
  • I"ve been intel free for about 3 years now.
  • B/c, fortunatly i survived, and thus less harm was done then had i actually died.

    You point out a big problem with current 'punishment' system. 5 years or 20, you need to be rehabilitated. But the emphasis is on punishment, not actually making prisoners better people. If we did try for rehabilitation, i don't think we'd see as many repeat crimials.
  • No, i fully agree with the judge.

    You are mixing apples and oranges.

    Before the arguement was between murder and attempted murder. In both cases, the intent was to murder; the only difference there was whether the person actually succeeded.

    Now you are talking about the difference between murder and manslaughter. One is a purposeful attemp to end someone's life (which, if muder has succeded), the other is the accidental killing of another. There is not 'attemped manslaugheter' because your intent in a manslaughter case was not to kill anyone, and therefore almost killing someone BY ACCIDENT is not a crime.

    The only contradiction here is in your thinking.
  • by Nexx (75873) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @05:56AM (#254155)
    No, no, no! I'm an AMD zealot, and Rambus going down is the *worst* situation for AMD, and here's why:
    1. Because of the contracts with Rambus, Intel cannot manufacture non-Rambus high-speed memory chipsets for their offerings.
    2. Because of 1., both Intel revenues and marketshare suffers. P4 on SDR SDRAM is a joke.
    3. Also because of 1., Intel continues to subsidize DRDRAM purchases on their boxed P4 sales. This also hurts Intel revenue.
    4. If 1., 2. and 3. go away, AMD's advantages go away with it, and frankly, that would be Bad.

    Seriously, though, *IF* AMD can buy out the guts of Rambus, then it would be tremendously funny :-).
    --

  • Why would it be hard? I've been doing it since before the P2... Every system I've built, every system I'v recommended to friends/family, & every business I've help setup systems for has used AMD chips...

    Maybe if you happen to like Intel's previous reign as the undisputed price gopuger of cpu's or you support their current place as most overrated & underperforming bunch of sniveling babies it might be hard... Otherwise it's pretty simple...
  • by ckuhtz (87644) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @04:48AM (#254157) Homepage
    they didn't throw out the patent(s), just the claim that infineon infringed on them because rambus failed to prove that they did.

    big difference.

    nonetheless, a step in the right direction.

  • by Greyfox (87712) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @04:51AM (#254158) Homepage Journal
    Doesn't look good for the shareholders! [yahoo.com]

    Maybe they'll be investing in a more ethical company now, like International Cruelty to Children and Small Animals. Or Allied Chemical and Nuclear Waste Disposal in Poor Neighborhoods and Third World Countries...

  • by Arker (91948) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @07:38AM (#254159) Homepage

    What exactly is the span of these three patents, tech-wise? Could anyone shed some light on that?

    IIRC, the term of patents is 17 years from filing date. The article didn't state what the filing date was on the three the judge has left in play, but assuming 1990 (the date I remember from earlier reports on this as being the filing date - although the patents were apparently rewritten severely much later, the filing date was kept) which is probably correct, they would expire in 2007.

    And on a related matter, what could Infineon risk if they end up guilty of accidentally infringing on these patents?

    IANAL, but it's my understanding that since the judge has already ruled there was no willful infringement, the worst they could get would be an order to pay the licensing fee to rambus, both on future production and on already shipped product.

    In a case of willful infringement, they would face the same figure multiplied by three.


    "That old saw about the early bird just goes to show that the worm should have stayed in bed."
  • by ReadbackMonkey (92198) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @05:19AM (#254160)
    The judge doesn't have to have any technical expertise in this particular case, as most of the case has revolved around the legal interpretation of the patent language. Essentially, during Rambus initial filings, off of it's abandonded April 18, 1990 application it described the bus structure as being "a multiline bus" see US5319755 [delphion.com]. Since most of its subsequent filings, all of the ones in this case, are based off that application as continuations or continuations-in-part. They are legally obliged to only expand on the existing ideas disclosed in the original application.

    So even tho' the subsequent applications use only the term "bus", that term must be interpretted to mean "multiline bus", which is technology clearly not used in SDRAM or DDR, as there are clearly distinct lines for address, data and command signals. Any, IANAL, but I have been following this case closely.
  • If intent is the important part, why do homicide and attempted homicide carry different penalties? I mean, the only difference might be an aim of one inch difference with a gun? I mean, you get rewarded for incompetence by getting a couple of years in jail instead of the chair...

    Sorry, just a peeve of mine...

  • The question is: if I am a cold blooded person, pointing a gun at your head, and pull the trigger, what difference should it make that, by some miracle of modern science, you survive? I am still the same person who was willing to stand there and pull the trigger of a gun pointed at somebody elses head, intent on killing that person.

    Now, if you die, I might spend 20 years in jail - maybe even be rehabilitated by that time. If you don't, maybe I spend 5 years, maybe even less, in jail. When I get out, I might be even more pissed off and want to kill more people because of it. I'm still the same person that was ready/willing/able to kill.

  • So then you are disagreeing with the judge in this patent case? The judge says that since the intent wasn't there, then the punishment should be less.

    I say, if that's true, then why should the intent to murder someone, the attempt as opposed to the actual murder, carry a different sentence? One part of the law is setting a punishment based on intent, and one is setting a punishment based on outcome of the intent. A contradiction.

  • by JesseL (107722) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @09:04AM (#254164) Homepage Journal

    Have you checked prices on DDR latley? Doesn't look too bad to me. [crucial.com]

  • In the same way that acidently stepping on someones big toe is diferent to wilfully stamping as hard as you can on their entire foot.

    Even killing someone has diferent classes and penalties, depending on wether the action was willful (Murder) or accidental (Man slaughter), and so it is the case with patents (Or appears to be).
  • by DeepDarkSky (111382) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @04:57AM (#254166)
    It seems that Rambus is now the patent and litigation company. Do they even sell memory anymore? :)

    I don't know if there's an active boycott of Rambus products, but I think there should be. The industry should also do something about Rambus, if possible.

  • by jejones (115979) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @04:37AM (#254167) Journal
    And can I get it in italic and boldface?
  • Sorry.. They were OBLIGATED as members of the JDEC to disclose all patents/applications that could be applicable to the technology. Not nessesarily go into details about it, but mention that the new tech could potentially infringe on their patent. RAMBUS ALSO specifically modified their applications after the JDEC meetings to make sure that the technology they decided on would infringe more.
  • Stole ? RAMBUS was part of a committee to create a STANDARD for memeory.. RAMBUS DELIBERATELY withheld that they had patents and/or applications that the JDEC proposal could be infringing on (not nessesarily going into details).. RAMBUS AMENDED their applications to make sure that the JDEC DID infringe MORE on their patents..

    So how did they steal from RAMBUS ?

  • Because if intent were all that's needed, we'd be all dead.

    So the pragmatic way is to judge on both what was likely to have actually happened and what was likely to have been intended.

    BTW, if you're going on about inconsistencies in the laws, there are plenty. If you want a lighter sentence don't kill people with guns, kill em with a car.

    Cheerio,
    Link.
  • Rambus claims that Infineon was infringing
    on thier patent claims for ten years before
    the claims were actually made.

    So either Infineon was unwillingly infringing
    on a patent that could itself get thrown out
    for showing prior art existed, or Infineon has
    to give up the plans for the time machine they
    used to get a decade jump on the competition.
  • It was only a patent application at the time, and they had no guarantee that it would be granted. (It would have been nice to disclose the application, though.)

    IIRC, JEDEC rules require the disclosure of any patents, granted or pending, that relate to proposed technologies. Rambus was required to disclose any pending patents that might relate to SDRAM.

  • by Boulder Geek (137307) <archer@goldenagewireless.net> on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @07:23AM (#254173)
    We all know and love Microsoft's practices of stealing other companies technologies and incorporating it into the great MS empire. Yet for some reason the Slashdot community seems to rejoice in the fact that memory companies stole Rambus' designs.

    I think that the general Slashdot population is glad to see Rambus go down because there is a sound argument that Rambus, both the company and the technology, is bad for the industry.

    Lets first look at the technology itself. It turns out that RDRAM is a terrible technology for main memory. It only shows advantages on certain classes of problems, and those problems aren't the ones that most users have to solve on a daily basis. Also consider that RDRAM is much more expensive to produce than normal DRAM, and you really begin to see a total disaster for the consumer.

    From a business standpoint, having a single company controlling DRAM technology can't be good. Look how bad it is with processors. We're still using an architecture that should have been thrown out years ago because of the monopoly that Intel has on the commodity processor market. Do we really want to see the same thing happen with memory?

  • the patent font

    TrueType enters the legal fray... damn.

    PDHoss


    ======================================
  • by JCMay (158033) <JeffMayNO@SPAMearthlink.net> on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @04:41AM (#254175) Homepage
    Who knew? A judge that uses common sense, which seems to be a scarce commodity nowadays. I would reference today's Doctor Fun [ibiblio.org] (link seems slow) cartoon for what most people think of judges, TV judges being only a part. It seems obvious that the preditory nature of Rambus' actions in the past regarding synchronous DRAMs is finally coming to light in the courtroom. More power to Infineon!
  • You are right, we should encourage judges to sepcialize in a feild where they can claim some expertiese. Perhapse set up a formal system that would pay them more if they hold a degree in something other than law? Or scholorships for judges who want to go to school for another degree (especially medical, scientific and technical degrees).

    However, it is important to note that in the present system, there are plenty of judges who specialize in certain areas of the law. The courts are partitioned such that different kinds of cases tend to fall under the jurisdiction of judges who are most experienced dealing with them. There are judges that deal in bankrupcy law, small claims, drug enforcement, devorce, capital crimes, and so on. There are judges who specialize in patent and trade disputes, and among them there are judges that specialize in technical issues such as this one. I can't say anything about the particular judge presiding over this case, but I do know they exist.

    However, it is also important to note that although they do exist, we don't have enough of them. It is also important to note that the system that places cases before courts experienced enough to deal with them is more or less informal. It would be silly to file your multi-billion dollar patent dispute case so that it would be presided over by Judge Judy. Any compotent lawyer would file the case with the appropriate court so that it will have a good chance of being heard by a judge with the right background. It benifits no one to have a clueless judge.

    --

  • by fishbonez (177041) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @05:04AM (#254177)
    The judge thrust his knife into the collapsing body of Rambus. From the quivering lips of the mortally wounded Rambus came forth the questioning cry, "Et tu iudex" (And you too Judge). It was now but a question of time before all life escaped from the body's husk. Some others jostled through the crowd that encircled the dying self-proclaimed emperor. They aimed to land a few more knife blows to hastened the demise of the much despised Rambus.
  • by doorbot.com (184378) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @06:25AM (#254178) Journal
    Check out the earnings per share [yahoo.com].

    8 cents!

    That's quite a PE...

    At any rate, what's silly is that they're the typical "We have a patent! We're a monopoly! Life is good! We'll be endlessly successful!"

    While the gov't allows patent monopolies to encourage innovation, they have a little thing called expiration dates... in 17 years, you'd have better come up with a new and better patent to compete with or you're SOL.

    So while 17 years is a long time, remember how quickly the computer industry changes. With RAMBUS's backstabbing of JEDEC, and going sue-happy, no one in their right mind would even talk to them again. Not that there's much prospect of them producing anything worthwhile anyways, but if they did (do they spend their license fees on R & D, or just lots of Ls), companies will think good and hard about even talking to them.

    Welcome to the real world RAMBUS. You can screw a company over once, but don't count on doing it again...
  • For actually giving in to Rambus? Its news like this (and yesterdays avian carrier internet proticol) that makes being a geek happy. Hopefully there will be a suit about the Quake Like Games [slashdot.org] soon, and we can cheer when worlds.com looses. Well we can hope.
  • by Sodium Attack (194559) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @11:23AM (#254180)
    IIRC, the term of patents is 17 years from filing date.

    You do not recall correctly. Currently, the term of patents is 20 years from the filing date. At one time, the law was 17 years from the date of grant, and for some patents it is currently "17 years from grant or 20 years from filing, whichever is longer." But 17 years from the filing date never entered into it.

    For more details see here [spi.org].

  • We all know and love Microsoft's practices of stealing other companies technologies and incorporating it into the great MS empire. Yet for some reason the Slashdot community seems to rejoice in the fact that memory companies stole Rambus' designs.

    Consider the following docket [rambusite.com]from the trial which indicates a fairly serious conspiracy to take Rambus' designs and modify them only enough to avoid paying patents.

    Do I believe Rambus should spend more time inovating and less time litigating? Of course. But they didn't have the 20 billion dollars to startup a manufacturing plant so they licensed the technology to a company that did. Shouldn't they be able to claim the 00.75% royalty that they are asking for?

  • by Segfault 11 (201269) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @05:07AM (#254182) Homepage
    Before the trial began, those of us staying abreast of this case were so confident that RAMBUST had no leg to stand on. As the "facts" came out, however, it quickly became apparent that the real situation was clear as mud.

    What it seemed like to me was that there was *some* wrongdoing on the part of both parties, and what it really boiled down to were the motives of RAMBU$ -- why didn't they point out their patents so long ago when open standards were being created, and why did they wait so long to enforce them after they allowed it to happen?

    Of course, this case very well could be crystal clear, and the RAM_US legal team just happens to have their own Steve Jobs Reality Distortion Field®.

  • by onion2k (203094) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @04:35AM (#254183) Homepage
    on the patent font.

    Is there a church of patents or something?
  • by 91degrees (207121) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @04:41AM (#254184) Journal
    I would guess its a matter of whether they looked at the patent, and ripped the, off, rather than coincidentally coming up with the same was to solve the problem. The former would suggest some punitive damages should be applied to, whereas the latter would suggest that Rambus are merely entitled to be reimbursed, and infineon should stop.

    Since Rambus haven't been doing too well, they could really do with the cash.

  • I don't know if there's an organized boycott or not, but I refuse to buy anything that uses RAMBUS until this is all figured out. I'm not going to get involved in this VHS/Betamax war.

    The only exception so far has been my Playstation2, which I just simply couldn't live without. :)
    --
  • Well if all this stuff makes Intel look better than AMD, I'm all for it. I'd rather have the best machine no matter who it comes from, and if the price drops on P4s combined with DDRSDRAM etc make better systems, great!

    I'm rather pissed off at this 686B problem as it is right now, and personally I'm not too keen on VIA because of it, and the fact that AMD doesn't want to produce their own chipsets. I'd like to see AMD succeed as well... but I'd like to see a widely-implemented chipset that rivaled the BX in stability and ease of use.

  • 1. Because of the contracts with Rambus, Intel cannot manufacture non-Rambus high-speed memory chipsets for their offerings

    I think that you are missing the point, here. The "contract" merely states that, if Intel sells enough Rambus chipsets, it can buy a lot of Rambus shares at a very low price. But, if patent suits begin to go against Rambus, those shares aren't worth the trouble. Ergo, Intel gives Rambus the finger, and goes DDR or what it will damn please.

    Just my $.0.02
  • by hillct (230132) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @04:54AM (#254188) Homepage Journal
    People can attempt to patent any technology they see fit. Weather they succeed is based on the expertise of the patent clerks that review the application.

    One of the other goals is, of course to get a broadly reaching patent. At any point a judge could rule that the scope of a patent is too broad and infringement would be penalized to a lesser extent. For this reason, it is in the best interest of companies to be careful about how far they reach to get a vary broad patent on a whole class of technology.

    Also, I can't relally blame Rambus for trying to take back some of the ground they lost over the past two decades as memory became a commodity. This is just good business.

    --CTH
    --
  • Payne said he agreed that Infineon may have learned some preliminary details related to Rambus' synchronous memory technology during early discussions to license Rambus DRAM in 1990 and 1991. "But then there is a long leap to June 23, 2000, when Rambus next sent a letter to Infineon about its SDRAM patents" awarded in the 1999-2000 time period. Payne said it "would be a leap of faith" that during the 10-year interval Infineon had been intentionally trying to violate the patents.

    What do you guys feel? Is basing and developing further on other's research illegal and if so should it be considered so?

  • What can I say? No matter which side of the argument you're on, it's pretty obvious (at least IMHO) that RAMBUS has brought this upon themselves. With their constant legal harrassment of the Dramurai and rather unholy licensing agreements with Intel supposedly aimed at reducing their competition to nothing through technology royalties, it's not a big shock. I really do hope this can be resolved reasonably but I have a feeling that RAMBUS will fight with the ferocity that tasmanian devils and Microsoft lawyers are traditionally known for. I hope they choke on it their own paperwork...
  • Just because you buy AMD doesn't mean you're boycotting Intel. AMD pays extensive licensing fees to Intel for everything from x86 code to PCI. So while buying AMD/Cyrix/Via may hurt Intel's bottom line somewhat, it's not like you're going to put them out of business. If you want to get serious about fighting Intel you'll have to consider other architectures, like PowerPC, MIPS, or Sparc.
  • by swagr (244747) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @04:46AM (#254192) Homepage
    I agree with you that intent is the important part. Even Kant said that the only truely good thing is a good intention (and hence the converse is true as well). I just didn't know that the law saw it that way when it came to patents.
  • by swagr (244747) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @04:38AM (#254193) Homepage
    The judge also states that even if Infineon has infringed on the remaining patents, they didn't do so willfully.
    Don't get me wrong, I hate all this patent shit too, but if someone infringes on a patent, since when does it matter if it was "willfully" or not?
  • Actually, to be completely safe, the law requires that you obtain a competent opinion from a lawyer that continued activity does not infringe, once you are put on notice that there may be a patent conflict. If you don't, you may be found liable for willful infringement from that point on, even if you were considered not be an unknowing infringer up to that point. It puts a great burden on an accused company once it merely gets an accusing letter from a patent holder.
  • Like the title says, please explain and view posts in chronological order.
  • "They have no right to backstab these companies who are trying to implement technology openly, so please don't claim they do."

    Exactly. As I recall, JEDEC even didn't have any objection to a member proposing to USE patented IP in the standard, so long as the license was open and reasonable. However, the requirement of disclosure was REQUIRED so that the other JEDEC members could negotiate such agreements WELL in advance of the patented IP being included in SDRAM.

    The need for this is obvious, as to do otherwise would allow one member an unfair competitive advantage over the others, and the ability to DICTATE terms to the others after the standard had already been adopted.

    This is exactly what Infineon and Micron allege that Rambus did (and they have the internal memos to prove it). Also, Rambus used an inside source at JEDEC called "secret squirrel" AFTER they had left to glean more info about the proposed SDRAM standard.... This info they used to amend their patent applications so as to patent IP actually not their own, so as to ensure SDRAM would infringe with their patents.

    Infineon has already provided the Judge with enough evidence to get him to invoke the RICO act fraud-abuse exception to "attorney client priviledge" to allow them to discover more evidence of this.

    This ruling, setting aside all but three infringement claims, and those having had their teeth pulled by his ruling that it wouldn't be ruled INTENTIONAL infringement.

    The patents those three remaining claims are based on are unlikely to hold, given the evidence that has already been presented, and the additional evidence that will likely be found by Infineon as they go to trial.

  • Actually, in Illinois (where I live), the penalties for murder and attempted murder are the same. This also applies to conspiracy to commit murder, which is having the intent without necessarily following through.

  • Intel still has a love-hate relationship with Rambus and is still touting RDRAM as the next gen ram technology despite its cost and potential technical flaws. It's pretty hard to boycott intel.

    Don't be silly...it's been over 10 years since I last bought an Intel product. You can get AMD or VIA CPU's; mainboard chipsets by VIA, SiS, or ALi; graphics chipsets from Nvidia, Matrox, ATI, ST Micro, Trident, S3, etc; NICs from 3COM, NetGear, LinkSys, etc; network switches from 3Com, Cisco, and several others; managed hosting from a slew of ASPs...ad nauseum. You can't name one Intel product that the average or exceptional tech user would need that doesn't have a non-Intel alternative. Heck...a couple years back my company was buying new Compaq Deskpro 2000 business PC's, and they came with Matrox display adapters, TI NICs and VIA chipsets. The only thing in them that actually was Intel was the CPU. So even in the big business world their grasp isn't as strong as they'd like you to believe.

    Also, I believe that SDRAM chip makers must pay royalties to Rambus. So, you'd have to boycott all SDRAM.

    You believe incorrectly. None of the SDRAM chip makers must pay royalties to Rambus except those that signed licensing deals with them for SDRAM rather than fight the Rambus claims in court. That's what this whole lawsuit is about to begin with. (duh!) Right now it appears that the only two who aren't paying royalties to Rambus are Infineon and Micron. So just buy your SDRAM or DDR from Crucial Technology and you're safe (they are the direct-sales division of Micron).
  • Consider the following docket from the trial which indicates a fairly serious conspiracy to take Rambus' designs and modify them only enough to avoid paying patents.

    Bah! I took you up on that offer and read through that docket. First off, it's from a proceeding that took place almost a month and a half ago, so it certainly qualifies as old news. Secondly, it certainly does not in any way indicate a conspiracy of any sort to take Rambus's designs. They quite plainly state that they would design a "public domain" version of the memory that Rambus was trying to sell them. They wanted to take some of the elements of the Rambus design that were not patented or patentable (in the public domain or obvious) and use them in a new design that specifically excluded patented info. They wanted to design a similar memory interface that wouldn't be an infringement. It hardly qualifies as stealing and there certainly is nothing wrong with it.

    What Rambus alleges in this document is way up the scale from being even remotely shady. After all, that's the purpose of patent searches. Before you make a new product, you look at everyone else's patented designs and try to make sure that your product does not infringe those patents.
  • That would be so good. We've seen that there are places where the serial memory technology is a good thing. Maybe if someone with a bit more brains took over those patents, we could see either a new form of serial memory that was a less costly standard, or somoe cheaper RIMM's.

    Right now there is no reason to compare RAMBUS vs. SDRAM on performance, because obviously you'll get better performance from SDRAM, since you can put in more than twice as much for the same amount of $$$.

  • For actually giving in to Rambus?

    Actually no, the other companies deals fall if Rambus loses. This is not usually the case, once you sign a license you are bound by the license. In this case however I have seen reports that the license is terminated if the patents are invalidated.

  • Does anybody have any idea whether the JDEC agreement has any teeth?

    Oh yes. One of the major PC manufacturers played similar games with the PC bus in the EISA consortium. The patents were invalidated by the judge because of that. The legal term is 'abuse'.

    Infineon have a strong defense if they can show that the RAMBUS patents were abused in that way.

    The fact that the judge has struck out most of the claims during the trial is very bad for RAMBUS. An earlier poster pointed out that lawyer tactics are to throw out as many claims as they can in case one sticks. However the downside of that strategy is that after the judge has found 94% of your case to be unsubstantiated you have a big credibility problem.

    Rambus have to win the case to justify their market cap. If they lose the incentive to license RDRAM technology will be pretty small and royalty rates will collapse from the hundreds of millions expected to the hundreds of thousands the idea is actually worth.

    Incidentally, neither Netscape nor Microsoft ever pulled a stunt remotely approaching the RAMBUS one at W3C (or for that matter anywhere else thaty I know of). The closest Netscape came is with the SSL patent that they gave a royalty free license to within a few weeks of it being granted. Netscape did practice 'drive by submissions' where the proposal to the W3C started rolling off the fax only minutes before the new navigator version went for download. Microsoft has never pulled a stunt at W3C that I know of.

  • by Anonymous Admin (304403) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @06:29AM (#254203)
    The judge threw out 54 of the infringement claims, leaving only 3, and this is before Infineon even states it case that rambus abused the standards body by withholding information, or abused the US patent office by withholding the prior art that it knew of, or by presenting to the patent office as its own, the knowledge gained by its involvement in the JEDEC standards body. We can expect to see the other 3 claims thrown out as well, and I hope, court costs refunded to Infinion, and punative damages levied against Rambus as well.
  • OK. Maybe I do not understand what you are saying.

    You state that the judge only needs expertise in the legal interpretation of the patent language. However, you then explain that this case revolves around the meaning of "multiline bus" and how SDRAM or DDR does not use it. This seems technical to me. How is the judge to know that SDRAM and DDR do not, in fact, employ a mutiline bus? It may be clear to you, but would it be clear to him? Does a judge understand what the defendent would say about address, data, and command signals? From my understanding, to prove patent infringement, the case must be made that the defendant used technology patented by Rambus. A judge must know whether Rambus is right in saying that the technology has been used, or the defendant is right in saying that it has not? Am I correct in this?

    Should a judge be expected to know these things? Should a judge know all technical aspects for all industries? If so, I sure wouldn't want to be one.

    --

  • by bare_naked_linux (306356) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @05:00AM (#254205)
    With all the technical aspects of the case being thrown around by these companies, I wonder how the judge keeps things straight. After all, his degree is in law.

    Do judges which hear patent cases consult with 3rd party (hopefully objective) experts concerning the related technologies? If not, then I suppose it is up to the companies to educate the judge in order to prove their cases?

    Just a thought: Would it benefit society if judges were specialized. I know lawers specialize to a certain extent, but do judges?

    Just wondering.

    --

  • Or the Walker-Bush family from selling war bonds for the Nazi party and helping to run the Hanover Line. Oops. And you thought they made their money from Oil.
  • by Zeio (325157) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @08:17AM (#254207)
    I know a person who works at DEC/Compaq on actually designing the Alpha chip. He said the next generation of Alpha systems will center around RAMBUS.

    My first reaction was "NO, the bane of our existence is now going to fester in high end systems as well!"

    He calmed me down and explained on several levels why RAMBUS was superior in this application. And by no means did he ever advocate the use of RAMBUS on a PC, he stated that it would be too costly and Intel had implemented RAMBUS incorrectly.

    From what I got out of the conversation was this: RAMBUS was a high speed bus, but it is only 8 bits wide. Sounds ridiculous at first. Apparently Intel decided that 2 channels per CPU would be enough. Practically speaking, especially with high memory bandwidth application, they were somewhat correct. But the day to day performance was no better. DEC has decided to move ahead, but they are planning to use 5 channels per CPU. They are going to do many interesting things with these channels, one of the things he mentioned was the use of memory striping with parity. The probability for a multi-bit error being uncorrectable in this configuration is huge - tending to make more sense for high availability systems.

    I also asked him to show me the money, where are there RAMBUS chips with the densities that are not laughably low. He indicated that the EV7 would be able to physically have 64TB of memory. That would, from what I have seen, need a memory stick the size of a 1 foot ruler per slot. The densities required for this are being made to order for DEC.

    RAMBUS is a vile company, they don't seem to do much but glean royalties off of others for producing the technology. They produced something that was implemented poorly and is not especially useful for the average Joe. It would be a fitting end to see it end up on the Alpha, outside of broad market appeal. Low volume sales is just what the saps at RAMBUS need. They have done a few things to ensure royalties, they have planted RAMBUS in consoles, tried to get PC buyers to use it. They would want the price of a microwave to go up by $100 bucks too, if they could stuff RAMBUS in there somehow.

    Why don't these people stop suing and whining, go to some area of the world to setup a memory plant, and make this stuff. Is it so hard to manufacture, so difficult to have good yields that they have to grab the coat tails of memory giants to pull the fabrication off?

    I think NEC and Samsung should just be given the rights to RAMBUS, and have this pest of a company dissolved into the annuls of history. And Intel, shame on you for being duped into doing something so silly next time implement things correctly.
  • I'm glad to see this happen, though the worst damage to Rambus was almost certainly not done by patent infringement but by their own excessive use of litigation. The company put so much effort and resources into it that they're adversely affected their profits as described here [upside.com]. I still think they could be a good company and maybe the drop in profits and the courts' unwillingness to award them the settlements they were seeking will serve as a wake-up call to them.
  • I hope that this sends a measage to all those conpanies out there that think they can claim an ownerless technology, that has been in use for years, as their own that they won't get any money from it and infact will loose money on court expences.

    I am so glad that the system works when it realy counts.
  • by no parity (448151) on Tuesday May 01, 2001 @04:42AM (#254210)
    Very many patents (and especially the dreaded software patents) work well as threats against competitors, but won't last in a lawsuit. The uncertainty that comes from not knowing in advance which ones will be dismissed is what makes the threats so effective. It seems like the Rambus tactics of actually suing over their patents was a bad move, because it removed the uncertainty that could have worked in their favor.
  • It seems that Rambus is now the patent and litigation company. Do they even sell memory anymore? :)

    Rambus is an Intellectual Property (IP) company.

    They don't actually produce DRAM, they simply license their RDRAM technology to DRAM makers, and have recently started charging fees for SDRAM production as well, based on their questionable patents.
  • Face the facts folks - Rambus is a vulture technology company. Not only did they file their patents purposely vague to give them ligitation room (indicating they intended to make their money on litigation) but they then used the later opportunity to 'extend' their patent to cover SDRAM - of which they had plenty of inside and illicit knowledge. The Markman ruling pretty much makes them play ball with the real facts - not vague claims. Screw them.

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