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Patents The Courts

Litigious Rambus Wins Again 161

Posted by timothy
from the courts-reward-the-patient-ligitant dept.
After Rambus's settlement deal with Samsung earlier this week, an anonymous reader writes with this snippet: "Memory technology company Rambus rounded out the week with another legal dispute ending in its favor as it fights to defend its patent portfolio. On Friday [the] US International Trade Commission ruled that graphics chip maker Nvidia infringed upon Rambus patents, according to statements released by the two companies on Friday. Rambus has been filing lawsuits against various technology companies for the past decade, claiming they violate patents held by the memory chip designer."
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Litigious Rambus Wins Again

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  • by LostCluster (625375) * on Friday January 22, 2010 @10:20PM (#30866598)
    This one's a tough call... the have been one of the most litigious of the tech companies, but on the other hand they seem to keep winning in the courts. Doesn't the definition of a patent troll include suing people with nonsense lawsuits? They seem to have come up with some ideas so critical to memory that everyone else in the industry can't seem to make a product without tripping over the patent law. Do we praise the inventors, or hate them because we hate patents?
    • by jmv (93421) on Friday January 22, 2010 @10:23PM (#30866608) Homepage

      The term patent troll has nothing to do with the fact that a company wins or loses. It's used to describe a company whose sole (or main) source of income is patent litigation.

      • Yep, but nVidia also manufactures little and licenses its designs to others. Not many lawsuits, but they're a place that lives on patents too. So, in your definition, this was Patent Troll v. Patent Troll.

        • by introspekt.i (1233118) on Friday January 22, 2010 @11:11PM (#30866878)
          I think the true Patent Troll is the company who neither innovates or manufactures (acts) on its patents. nVidia innovates with an intent to licenses, which I think most people can agree, doesn't really constitute patent troll behavior...they just want to concentrate on innovation.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by LostCluster (625375) *

            Rambus is acting on their patents, they've got many licenses and are suing only those who want to use their patent-protected items without licensing. nVidia is just as protective of their designs... use one without paying and they'll sue too!

            • Bad faith (Score:5, Informative)

              by nten (709128) on Saturday January 23, 2010 @12:55AM (#30867350)

              Its not so much that it wasn't a good idea, but that they negotiated in bad faith. The background is that a group of many manufacturers got together to make a memory standard that they could all use. They each chipped in ideas, and didn't patent them. Rambus steered the standard towards something that would include things they had already patented, and hoped no one would notice the patents. No one did. They then did not immediately sue, but waited until the standard was widely used by many of the original group, and others, so that paying the settlements would be preferable to the cost of switching standards. This is not simply patent trolling per the usual standard. This is an example of fraud. The company should get dissolved to pay remunerations towards those it defrauded, all patents released into public domain, and its board charged with felonies.

              • The company should get dissolved to pay remunerations towards those it defrauded, all patents released into public domain, and its board charged with felonies.

                lol, you must be new here. (here being any modern, western society)

        • by _Sprocket_ (42527)

          How many submarine patents has nVidia sprung on the industry?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by A12m0v (1315511)

        Main source of income?
        Rambus source of income is licensing their memory technology. The Sony PS3 uses XDR RAM designed by Rambus.
        Hardly qualifies as a patent troll. They have every right to protect their IP.

    • by bky1701 (979071) on Friday January 22, 2010 @10:23PM (#30866616) Homepage
      When an idea is so critical to something it cannot be worked around, it is far too obvious to be deserving of a patent. As a problem gets bigger, the amount of ways to solve it grows proportionally. If memory makers can't get around them, there is no doubt in my mind they're nothing but patent trolling scum who deserve to be beaten down in court.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by LostCluster (625375) *

        there is no doubt in my mind they're nothing but patent trolling scum who deserve to be beaten down in court.

        But they haven't been... and are collecting their patent fees from Samsung who likely kept an eye on this case to see whether they needed to pay. So, do you hate all patents?

        • by Evil Shabazz (937088) on Friday January 22, 2010 @11:36PM (#30867034)
          A quick perusal of Rambus' patent portfolio does indicate their most recent patent was issued in 2008, which would indicate they are still attempting to innovate in their field. On the other hand, if they have certain patents that are so broad as to actually prohibit competition from entering the marketplace then the there is a very big problem with those patents. Patents are supposed to encourage corporations to invest in research and development by providing a measure of profit protection for the company doing that innovation. Stifling competition is counter to that intent.
          • by LostCluster (625375) * on Friday January 22, 2010 @11:55PM (#30867138)
            Patents by definition stifle competition. They're saying "I figured out how to do something this way, and because I'm first you can't copy me!" It's a monopoly on that idea granted because if everybody could duplicate it right away, nobody would make money inventing.
            • But they are not meant to do so to such an extent as to create a monopolistic industry where a single patent or company's portfolio of patents controls the barrier of entry. They are meant to protect a company's way of doing things better.
            • That said, you're right. I'm not sure what I was thinking. My last two sentences are contradictory.
            • I think patents don't stifle competition so much as they stifle innovation. If patents were issued for shorter terms or if holders do not come to market by a certain time then the patent should be lost and the information opened to promote innovation upon that technology. And again patent terms should be shorter after coming to market. Enough time to make money and not hold up innovation. Time is key. The time frame now is better suited to 100 years ago when technology took a lot of time and effort to bring
            • by x2A (858210)

              "because I'm first"

              No it's not. It's "because I'm first to publish". Patents are about getting information into the public as quickly as possible, by giving a financial/market incentive to whomever does it first. Imagine if companies wanting to keep their techs to themselves and those who pay towards their r&d had to find other ways to keep others out, such as covering all their chips in a substance that would destroy it if you tried to remove it. How much of their r&d budget would have to go into d

              • by Znork (31774)

                Patents are about getting information into the public as quickly as possible

                Of course, that purpose might be much better served and without the economically damaging aspects of patents, if we just outright paid people for publishing patents. Simply require companies to register use of public 'patents' and pay the filer a useful amount if and when their 'patents' get used. Easy, no need for much litigation, all the stakeholders get an interest in a balanced system as the financing is finite, and it accommoda

                • by x2A (858210)

                  Erm... what? That is what happens... if you build something using patented tech, you have to pay the patent holder. If a patent never gets used, nobody ever has to pay 'em anything. All this legal stuff comes from companies saying "What? Patented? This? Nooo no no no, this is erm... erm... this is something else... it's a chicken" and then the nvidia guy holds up a chip and starts making chicken noises pretending all like it's a chicken, which made me even more hungry than talking about chips alone. If what

            • by Znork (31774)

              nobody would make money inventing.

              Sure they could. First mover advantage always lets you profit from your inventions, and as all invention is evolutionary it's just a question of matching the steps and investment with the inherent advantage.

              Patents merely slow innovation down; when you're protected from the evolutionary pressure of competition there's less reason to improve.

      • Geek Logic (Score:5, Insightful)

        by westlake (615356) on Friday January 22, 2010 @10:44PM (#30866720)

        When an idea is so critical to something it cannot be worked around, it is far too obvious to be deserving of a patent.

        That's nonsense.

        If there is no work-around you have pretty much proven that the solution to the problem is not obvious and that the patent is legitimate.

        • Tard Logic (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Chris Burke (6130) on Friday January 22, 2010 @10:53PM (#30866774) Homepage

          In what universe is it true that there being only one known way to solve a particular problem means that one solution is not obvious?

          In fact, when everyone who approaches the problem arrives at the same solution, that's usually proof that the solution is obvious.

          • Re:Tard Logic (Score:4, Insightful)

            by zippthorne (748122) on Friday January 22, 2010 @11:13PM (#30866890) Journal

            What if everyone who approaches a problem doesn't arrive at a solution, and instead just uses the already known solution?

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Chris Burke (6130)

              That's different obviously.

              But usually, if the solution isn't in textbooks, widely published research papers, or discussed at symposiums, but only dislosed via the patent then it isn't widely known. I mean, the patent lawyer at my company explicitly told my whole group not to do patent searches and just come up with solutions on our own, because patents are such a minefield the odds of you infringing one no matter what is very high, and knowingly doing so (which any kind of patent search, even if it didn't

              • I mean, the patent lawyer at my company explicitly told my whole group not to do patent searches

                What's it like working at Microsoft? Do you have the lowest Slashdot ID there? :)

          • In what universe is it true that there being only one known way to solve a particular problem means that one solution is not obvious?

            In any case where the success of the product is directly affected by its speed.

            • by Chris Burke (6130)

              What?

              • Products that perform at a number of thingamabobs per second do more thingamabobs a second the next year. The thingamabob-rate always increases but it's not like you can spend a ridiculous sum of money and get the end-all-be-all number of thingamabobs a second. The solution of how to reach the limit of thingamabobs per second isn't obvious. If it were, there'd be no such thing as Moore's law.

                • by Chris Burke (6130)

                  You realize that the majority of that "x% more thingamabobs a year" has to do with device physics and process technology, not the logic/protocol/signal integrity technology that's people like Rambus involves themselves in?

                  "The ultimate thingamabobs/sec technology" isn't obvious. That doesn't mean any particular improvement in things/sec wasn't obvious. Obviously.

                  • I wasn't defending RAMBUS, I was answering your question. Which... you seem to agree with in a way that is intended to sound like you don't. Heh.

        • No, the entire point of patents is to encourage innovation. If you patent something so basic it can't be worked around, it is too obvious. How does blocking all innovation encourage innovation? It is an oxymoron. When you patent small advancements, small improvements, they allow for innovation. Most software and many hardware patents are akin to patenting "using a spring to trap a mouse", they have no specific outlines, no implementation and only serve as a hindrance to any innovators. Now, patenting a stan
          • But it wasn't something that was "so basic it can't be worked around". What they patented were ways to make fast memory, cheaper.

            If the competition can't make them as fast, or as cheap, too bad. Nothing about that means the solutions were "obvious"... at least not until Rambus patented them. In fact it wan't until Rambus memory started to be included in consumer products that the other companies suddenly decided it was "obvious".

            It's pretty easy to say "Why didn't I think of that?" after the fact. It
            • Re:Geek Logic (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Chris Burke (6130) on Friday January 22, 2010 @11:33PM (#30867010) Homepage

              What they patented were ways to make fast memory, cheaper.

              Nothing about Rambus' technology was every about "cheaper". Their memory technology was inherently more expensive than others because it required additional serialization logic chips.


              It's pretty easy to say "Why didn't I think of that?" after the fact. It is the one who gets there first that gets the patent. That IS innovation.

              You mean the one who gets to the patent office first? "Why didn't I think of that?" is what Rambus said when they overheard the discussions at JEDEC, but then they realized it didn't matter that they didn't think of it first, since nobody else thought of patenting it first. Yay Rambus?

        • Re:Geek Logic (Score:4, Interesting)

          by slimjim8094 (941042) <slashdot3NO@SPAMjustconnected.net> on Saturday January 23, 2010 @12:38AM (#30867312)

          What the hell kind of comment is that? Take flight. There are two ways to do it - be lighter than air, or equal your weight with thrust.

          Unless we find some way to modify gravity, that's it. In that case, the "idea is so critical to [flight that] it cannot be worked around". You can easily make the case that simple physics will allow you to arrive at both solutions.

          • There are two ways to do it - be lighter than air, or equal your weight with thrust.
            You can easily make the case that simple physics will allow you to arrive at both solutions.

            But you haven't arrived at your destination - you've only made a bare suggestion of two possible ways to get there.

            You can't patent the dream of flight.

            You can't patent the physical laws that make it possible.

            You can patent the practical flying machine - the essential components that take flight out of the realm of fantasy and scienc

          • Re:Geek Logic (Score:4, Insightful)

            by the_other_chewey (1119125) on Saturday January 23, 2010 @03:44AM (#30868012)

            Take flight. There are two ways to do it - be lighter than air,

            Airship.

            or equal your weight with thrust.

            Rocket.

            Unless we find some way to modify gravity, that's it.

            Right. Wouldn't it be awesome if it were somehow possible to use the dynamic properties of the medium
            you move through to generate some sort of supporting force? That might even make it possible to create flying
            machines with less thrust than their mass. Woohoo, let me patent that immediately!
            Huh? What do you mean, airplanes?

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Zero__Kelvin (151819)

        "When an idea is so critical to something it cannot be worked around, it is far too obvious to be deserving of a patent."

        So if I invent a Time Machine, and nobody else can find another way to travel through time so they use my design, then my solution was obvious and I am a patent troll for enforcing my patent?

        • by Chris Burke (6130)

          Yeah, that's obviously not the metric of obviousness either.

          The official definition of obviousness is roughly whether or not anyone skilled in the art would arrive at the same solution.

          Of course that definition is based on a hypothetical, so it's hard to say (without a Time Machine).

        • by timmarhy (659436)
          depends on your patent, if you were granted a patent on the idea of time travel alone then yes your a patent trolling bastard. if you came up with an entirely new method of time travel that no one has ever thought of and you license that idea out to people or build the product yourself, then thats fair.
          • "depends on your patent, if you were granted a patent on the idea of time travel alone then yes your a patent trolling bastard. "

            Not really. In that case I'm an idiot, because I'm staying in the present time and suing people when I could be using my fucking time machine!

            (for those following along but not closely don't get caught up in just this post. timmarhy has me patenting the general idea, but I already stated that others are using my working design in their working machines using my patent)

        • by tomhudson (43916)

          So if I invent a Time Machine, and nobody else can find another way to travel through time so they use my design, then my solution was obvious and I am a patent troll for enforcing my patent?

          Good luck with that - I'll just use your patented time machine to go back in time and patent it before you!

          Some things are impossible to protect by patents.

          • "Good luck with that - I'll just use your patented time machine to go back in time and patent it before you! "

            That was a bad move. I was waiting for you because I had the first Time Machine, and now the cops are going to have to wait for someone else to invent one so they can play Timecop, because I'm not inventing it again and taking the chance that they'll put me in jail for torturing you to death!

            • by x2A (858210)

              Not true unless you destroy the time machines before the police get you for the torture. Just because you change the future so you never invent the time machine doesn't mean the ones already in the past will suddenly disappear. Dispite the grandfather paradox, time just doesn't work like that.

              You'd end up with a situation where there are just two time machines, found in a time before man kind was ready and able to produce them itself, yet perfectly able to decypher the buttons. Well *rubs hands* I can't see

              • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

                by Zero__Kelvin (151819)

                "Not true unless you destroy the time machines before the police get you for the torture."

                You were supposed to figure out that I took mine with me when I left and destroyed the other one when it arrived and I tortured him to death in it, since I stated that they would need one to find me.

                I'm not sure what made you think you need to explain to me about time when I invented a Time Machine and nobody else could do so. I'm not sure what in your twisted mind made you think you were actually smarter than me.

                "so

      • by MarkvW (1037596)

        Everything looks obvious in retrospect. The geniuses are the ones who can see the obvious when nobody else can.

    • by DrMrLordX (559371) on Friday January 22, 2010 @10:29PM (#30866638)
      RAMBUS, Inc. is the very definition of a patent troll. They're just smarter, and more brazen, than most. It will take years to undo the damage they did to JEDEC memory standards, and by then, who knows how else they will infect memory standards with their patents?
    • by haruchai (17472)

      I go with hate them - if they can't make a physical product that kicks ass, then they deserved to have their asses kicked
      if all they can do is sue. Unfortunately, since the lawmakers don't seem to get it and so long as trollhavens like the
      East District Court of Texas are around, lame plaintiffs will prosper.

      • I go with hate them - if they can't make a physical product that kicks ass, then they deserved to have their asses kicked

        Here's the problem with that: nVidia is board-design IP shop. They don't make anything either, they just sell their designs to other companies who build the hardware, and market it under their own brands with an "nVidia powered" seal. Patent Troll 1 vs. Patent Troll 2 according to your definition.

        • by Pulzar (81031)

          Here's the problem with that: nVidia is board-design IP shop. They don't make anything either, they just sell their designs to other companies who build the hardware, and market it under their own brands with an "nVidia powered" seal. Patent Troll 1 vs. Patent Troll 2 according to your definition.

          Outsourcing your manufacturing (of chips, or anything else for that matter) can't be described as "selling your designs", though. You're providing the fab with the spec on the part that you want them to manufacture

      • Once again (see my above posts), they DID invent superior products, and had them manufactured, and actually sold them for real machines. Am I the only one here who remembers PCs containing Rambus memory?

        It was only then that larger competitors stole their ideas and drove them out of the market. So Rambus is actually the opposite of a "patent troll". They are the little guy who got illegally stepped on by bigger industry... in other words, victims of the same thing Microsoft has been convicted for doing,
        • Once again (see my above posts), they DID invent superior products, and had them manufactured, and actually sold them for real machines. Am I the only one here who remembers PCs containing Rambus memory?

          They didn't invent it. They underhandedly patented ideas from the JEDEC and are seeking rent on them now.

          • No, those were other ideas. I am not saying that Rambus didn't borrow some things from JEDEC, but the fact is that the major manufacturers stole Rambus' patented ideas for DDR2. Maybe not all of their patents are valid, but the basics of Rambus memory are legitimate. They were there first.
    • but on the other hand they seem to keep winning in the courts. Doesn't the definition of a patent troll include suing people with nonsense lawsuits?

      Those two concepts are not mutually exclusive. It is possible to win in the courts despite a lawsuit being garbage.

      They seem to have come up with some ideas so critical to memory that everyone else in the industry can't seem to make a product without tripping over the patent law.

      Patent trolls often get an overly broad patent accepted by the USPTO that cover

      • by x2A (858210)

        Overly broad patents often wouldn't actually stand up in court, as the courts end up doing the job that the patent office has failed to and invalidate them. Problem is, when somebody's bigger than you, they can still far too easily use their wrongly issued patent to extort money out of you, even if you know the patent would be invalidated in court, they could bankrupt you before you've even gotten that far. To me, that stinks even more than the patents do, as that problem affects even more than patents.

    • by mcrbids (148650) on Saturday January 23, 2010 @12:29AM (#30867278) Journal

      They seem to have come up with some ideas so critical to memory that everyone else in the industry can't seem to make a product without tripping over the patent law. Do we praise the inventors, or hate them because we hate patents?

      I guess you don't know/remember the real story behind RAMBUS. These "innovations" that they patented were obtained by attending multivendor conference meetings and then filing patents on the ideas discussed before anybody else got to them. They didn't come up with them, they just filed first!

      But to make matters worse, they "submarined" the patents, filing changes for years so that nobody knew about the patents until AFTER the industry had pretty much committed itself to the designs that Rambus was eventually awarded patents to.

      Rambus is a horrible patent troll, in the fullest sense of the word. In terms of evil, they are right up there with Antivirus vendors and spammers.

    • by Trogre (513942)

      These are nonsense lawsuits.

      They're suing people based on patents they should never have been granted in the first place, due to their position on the Jedi, excuse me, JEDEC Council at the time.

      That they're probably operating legally has no bearing on whether or not they are patent trolls.

  • by John Hasler (414242) on Friday January 22, 2010 @10:35PM (#30866666) Homepage

    ...The US Trade Commission is not a court.

    • by Chris Burke (6130) on Friday January 22, 2010 @10:39PM (#30866690) Homepage

      Indeed. And Rambus has been losing [wikipedia.org] all of their patent suits in court.

      Though they have been winning all the suits involving anti-trust (both those filed against them, and those filed against the memory makers who did engage in illegal trust behavior).

      • I'm going to have to call "NPOV violation" on that one... it's a list of their losses, while their [businessweek.com] wins [betanews.com] have [sfgate.com] gone [toolbox.com] unmentioned. [luisrei.com]

        • by Chris Burke (6130)

          Um... only one of those is actually Rambus winning a patent royalty case. The rest are Rambus not losing anti-trust cases against them. Which I said they won, and the WP page supports them winning. The second "victory" was Rambus being able to concede defeat and pay Samsung's legal bills despite Samsung wanting to continue litigation.

    • by chill (34294)

      Really? They have judges, lawyers, clerks, hearings and all the trappings of a court.

      Quote their home page [usitc.gov]: The Commission also adjudicates cases involving imports that allegedly infringe intellectual property rights. "Adjudicates" implies court.

      Further quote: Section 337 investigations, which are conducted pursuant to 19 U.S.C. 1337 and the Administrative Procedure Act, include trial proceedings before administrative law judges and review by the Commission.

  • When I think of Rambus and how they as a company act... I can not help but think of SCO.

    Perhaps with a final ending not unlike that as well.
     

    • SCO was a company that had nothing left but lawsuits (with a 0-win record) and money from those who felt the settlement price was less than the money they'd lose defending themselves against a threatened lawsuit.

      Rambus on the other hand is proving they've got something, and has most of the chip industry as clients with the few holdouts losing and trying to claim anti-trust violations.

      • by Sanat (702)

        Rewind back about 20 years when Rambus stole many common knowledge ideas from JEDEC meetings and patented them as if they were their own... which they were not.

        Back in those days the companies were trying to come up with something faster memory-wise and a lot of good ideas from many companies were talked about... and then suddenly RAMBUS owns the patents to these regardless of whom ever suggested the ideas..

        I personally remember this occurring and that is why the Rambus name leave a bad taste in my mouth j

  • by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted@slashd[ ]org ['ot.' in gap]> on Friday January 22, 2010 @11:38PM (#30867040)

    I always thought, Rambus was a law firm with a straw business in memory technology.

  • Rambus vs. JEDEC (Score:5, Interesting)

    by azrider (918631) on Friday January 22, 2010 @11:47PM (#30867084)
    To all of you:

    Before commenting (especially if you are defending Rambus) you might want to do a search on "rambus jedec spec". The google search is:
    http://www.google.com/search?q=rambus+jedec+spec&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a/ [google.com]

    One of the results is:
    http://www.abanet.org/antitrust/committees/intell_property/june21.html/ [abanet.org] (FTC Charges Rambus With Abuse of Standard Setting Process).

    In a nutshell, Rambus participated in the standards setting process for SDRAM technology without informing any of the other members that they were actively pursuing patents in the technology used to implement the standard. Once the standard was finalized, they disclosed the patents and demanded royalties.

    Methinks that Rambus was in the wrong. So does the FTC.

    • by Shatrat (855151)
      Wish I had mod points. There are too many "RAMBUS is a legitimate innovator." posts in this thread for my liking.

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