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Rambus Could Reap Millions In Patent Settlements 82

Posted by kdawson
from the what-innovation-looks-like-now dept.
RedEaredSlider writes "Rambus, a designer of semiconductor chips, won a long-running patent battle with NVIDIA, but that dispute is not the only one the company is involved in — and the upcoming decisions could mean millions in additional revenue. Besides the NVIDIA decision, Rambus is involved in a suit with Hynix Semiconductor that will be heard in October. In that case, Hynix had originally sued Rambus in 2000, but Rambus counter-sued. Hynix lost, and appealed. The parties will appear before the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in October. A judgment in Rambus's favor would be worth at least $397 million, according to the company's general counsel, Tom Lavelle."
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Rambus Could Reap Millions In Patent Settlements

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  • To keep up (Score:3, Funny)

    by Lord_of_the_nerf (895604) on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @10:48PM (#33053422)
    ATI is going to want to get sued in about six months for $500 million.
  • Rambus... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sol Rosinberg (586029) on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @10:52PM (#33053438)
    Wow, there's a company I haven't heard of in years. Didn't they make some hideously expensive RAM that was supposed to perform twice as well as normal RAM, but never lived up to the hype? Basically, they patented the design, couldn't get it to work right, and now they're suing the companies who did.
    • Re:Rambus... (Score:5, Informative)

      by obeythefist (719316) on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @11:00PM (#33053476) Journal

      Those are the guys! It was many years ago. They apparently sat on some big RAM council board, took a bunch of notes, and sprinted to the patent office as soon as the meeting was over. BAM! Patent infringement lawsuits all over the place.

      Unlike other patent trolls, however, they did manage to release a horrible implementation of a quasi-serial memory bus that had atrocious real world performance. And managed to persuade Intel to get in bed with them, which for many was a big reason that AMD was doing so well at the time.

      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        That's one side of the story. The others side was the other guys were the world's largest illegal cartel (according to the US DOJ) and were out to rip off Rambus.

        Most slashtards only know about 1/10th of the story, because they are ugly help-desk nerds who only get their IT news from slashdot.

        • by obeythefist (719316) on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @11:52PM (#33053660) Journal

          Ohh I didn't realise that if you patent troll an illegal oligopoly, it's no longer patent trolling, it is in fact awesome patenting for great justice?

          No, patent trolls are patent trolls.

          I didn't know Rambus employees were able to get onto slashdot to post as AC's, though, I thought the RAM in their desktops was too slow to allow them to log on.

          • by Dishevel (1105119)
            No. They can log on and post. But. Because of the speed of Rambus RAM he thought that would end up as a FP.
      • Re:Rambus... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Nikker (749551) on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @11:53PM (#33053668)
        As someone who bought said ram as part of a Dell in 2003 I can attest I would like to give Rambus a collective kick in the nuts for doing this. At the time coated me approx $600CDN for the upgrade from pc233 I believe? For 512mb. 7 years later 512mb pc 1066 is still $200. The performance was actually pretty good though giving approx 4gb/s performance, which at the time was pretty good. But that coupled with a Prescott I truly understood the value of building your own.
        • Re:Rambus... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by RMH101 (636144) on Wednesday July 28, 2010 @07:25AM (#33054918)
          I remember working 2nd line support for a company with a load of RAMBUS Dells. Caused a bit of a commotion when the usual upgrade-by-slapping-in-more-RAM option was costed. I can remember it costing more than a new Optiplex at the time. Much hilarity with management.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by meerling (1487879)
        I know most people define patent trolls as never releasing real products, but I don't think it should be that strict. Any company that engages in significant patent lawsuits for cash settlements (not patent portfolio license exchanges) should be classed a patent troll. Obviously any company that doesn't produce product is automatically in that category, but there are others that should be as well. Rambus is one of them IMO.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Dionysus (12737)

          Any company that engages in significant patent lawsuits for cash settlements (not patent portfolio license exchanges) should be classed a patent troll.

          Nah, still too strict. How about anybody Slashdotters don't like who also holds any patens are patent troll?

        • Re:Rambus... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by asc99c (938635) on Wednesday July 28, 2010 @03:10AM (#33054118) Homepage

          I think the problem people have with RAMBUS is specifically that they sat in on the JEDEC working groups to watch the development of new standards, and then when everyone had decided on the design and invested huge amounts of money, they piped up that they had a patent on it. This was completely against the principles of the JEDEC working groups - where the meetings are specifically aimed at ensuring they are developing an open standard free from their member's patents which might otherwise block the technology - not necessarily 100% unpatented, but where they know what the patent licensing agreements are. Generally all the members agree to cross-licence the patents between themselves - this is the 'cost' of joining the JEDEC standards group.

          The RAMBUS technology (and to a leser extent, it's implementation) is actually rather good, so they aren't a classic patent troll, but their submarine patent on DDR technology makes them clearly some form of patent troll.

          • Re:Rambus... (Score:4, Informative)

            by stevew (4845) on Wednesday July 28, 2010 @09:38AM (#33056306) Journal

            You guys have the story slightly wrong - they didn't just take notes. They revealed technology that they got everyone else to agree to put into the standards THEN announced patents on same.

            It's a slight difference - but makes them even nastier.

            • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

              by _avs_007 (459738)
              In most standard bodies that I participate in, there is a clause in the member's agreement that says that anything you disclose/discuss to/with the committee, constitutes IP submission to the committee's patent pool of any IP associated with the topic in discussion. And there is usually a mandatory IP check before the spec is ratified. Any members that fail to declare IP that they wish not to license according to the member's license agreement, lose rights to said IP. I've seen a few cases where IP was late
          • by fishbowl (7759)

            >This was completely against the principles of the JEDEC working groups

            Principles are one thing, but negotiated contracts secured by exchanges of valuable consideration are much more valuable in this sort of scenario. Did someone breach an enforceable contract clause, or did they go counter to an assumed guideline? One of these would be evidence in a federal court, the other would simply be a bummer.

          • by butlerm (3112)

            "the problem people have with RAMBUS is specifically that they sat in on the JEDEC working groups to watch the development of new standards, and then when everyone had decided on the design and invested huge amounts of money, they piped up that they had a patent on it"

            This ought to be counted as inequitable conduct, and the relevant patents invalidated as a consequence.

        • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          I would agree. The definition of a patent troll to me should be any individual who has the mindset as one. What really irritates me though is that the USPTO office no matter what bad decision gets off scot free. I am sorry, but Federal or not they should be held accountable for their actions and the individual examiners should be drug into court when it is found they didn't do their job right and cost millions for some company.

      • Not quite (Score:4, Informative)

        by arth1 (260657) on Wednesday July 28, 2010 @07:10AM (#33054840) Homepage Journal

        Those are the guys! It was many years ago. They apparently sat on some big RAM council board, took a bunch of notes, and sprinted to the patent office as soon as the meeting was over. BAM! Patent infringement lawsuits all over the place.

        Not quite... It was more like the council had a non-disclosure agreement, and Rambus showed them what they were working on, after which a couple of the other manufacturers turned around and blatantly copied the inventions. Unfortunately for them, the patents in question had been filed long before.
        Which is why Rambus has been awarded compensation in several judgments.

        While Rambus certainly has bad sides and skeletons in the closet (they're a corporation after all), it's not correct to call them a patent troll.

        And their RDRAM failed for two major reasons: Price and Samsung
        The price was MUCH higher, especially for 32-bit RDRAM. Yes, it was faster, but the benefits were not that high. Add that Samsung, the sole producer of 32-bit RDRAM, couldn't deliver in a timely manner, and the customers had a choice between buying a more expensive RDRAM motherboard with very expensive RDRAM that they would have to wait weeks for, or a marginally slower DDR motherboard with very cheap RAM that they could get straight away. Still, RDRAM found its way into many servers.
        But RDRAM existed, and it was faster (if comparing apples to apples) -- it wasn't a patent troll, but patented technology they had actually made into products.

        People (even here) were slamming Rambus because they wanted cheap, and if Rambus won, DDR2 prices were likely to go way up.

        • Re:Not quite (Score:5, Insightful)

          by cheesybagel (670288) on Wednesday July 28, 2010 @10:01AM (#33056572)

          Other companies than Samsung tried to manufacture RDRAM and failed even more, because of poor quality control. The fact is the design was complex, and hard to manufacture, leading to all sorts of issues, including localized heat zones. If you remember, RDRAM was when we started seeing heat spreaders in memory modules.

          Sending a signal on both edges of the clock has been done since like forever. I learned it in class before Rambus was even founded. If DDR infringes on a patent because of that, the patent office needs to review its standards for accepting patent applications.

        • by statusbar (314703)

          I was under the impression that rambus did a classic submarine patent - IE they had started a patent filing before the JEDEC meetings, and then amended it later with what they learned from JEDEC. Then the patent filing date is before the JEDEC meeting...

          --jeffk++

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Solandri (704621)

          Not quite... It was more like the council had a non-disclosure agreement, and Rambus showed them what they were working on, after which a couple of the other manufacturers turned around and blatantly copied the inventions. Unfortunately for them, the patents in question had been filed long before.

          Which is why Rambus has been awarded compensation in several judgments.

          Holy rewriting of history. Lemme quote the original FTC Commission report [ftc.gov] on the case (pdf):

          JEDEC operated on a cooperative basis and requi

    • Re:Rambus... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Bacon Bits (926911) on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @11:06PM (#33053510)

      No, no, they got it to work right. It worked four times as fast (at the time) but it cost more than four times as much. And they didn't allow anybody else to produce the chips by refusing to sell license their patent to other manufacturers. And you had to buy in pairs (and have those stupid blanks in unpopulated slots, and who wants to buy those stupid things?). And they didn't reduce the price at all even though the competition began to close the gap in speed and surpassed them in capacity.

      RDRAM failed because it was more expensive due to price fixing monopoly, short in supply due to monopoly, more difficult to use and install, and advanced more slowly than the competition (due to a smaller set of researchers working on improving it). And Intel priced their processors far and above the price of AMD's DDR-only, better-performing competition. RDRAM is a good example of customer demand shaping the market.

      • Re:Rambus... (Score:5, Informative)

        by YesIAmAScript (886271) on Wednesday July 28, 2010 @12:28AM (#33053746)

        It was only faster for a very short period.

        When DDR came out and was adopted, it had higher throughput than RDRAM. And both SDRAM and DDR had lower latency. So SDRAM actually was higher performing in many cases and DDR was in all cases.

        In no time, you had to buy the fastest (most expensive) RDRAM 800 and in pairs in order to come even close to matching DDR on performance.

        A bank of RDRAM 800 had 1600MB/sec bandwidth, while a single bank of 133MHz (DDR-266) had 2166MB/sec bandwidth. A single bank of PC-133 SDRAM had 1066MB/sec bandwidth and much lower latency. Most RDRAM systems (before the very end) had RDRAM 600 in them, for a bandwidth of 1200MB/sec.

        RDRAM's advantage the whole time was the ability to put in a lot more RAM than with DDR because since each DIMM regenerated the signal before passing it on, you could daisy chain RAM as far away as you'd like, unlike where with SDRAM or DDR the total bus length was limited by the capacitance placed on by all the DIMMs on the bus.

        In essence, RDRAM had the same advantages and disadvantages of FB-DIMMs, which was also driven out of the market by cheaper and faster DDR3.

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          RDRAM's advantage the whole time was the ability to put in a lot more RAM than with DDR because since each DIMM regenerated the signal before passing it on, you could daisy chain RAM as far away as you'd like, unlike where with SDRAM or DDR the total bus length was limited by the capacitance placed on by all the DIMMs on the bus.

          I read the above paragraph with the voice of Doc Emmett Brown... "No no no! You're not thinking fourth-dimensionally!"

        • by arth1 (260657)

          A bank of RDRAM 800 had 1600MB/sec bandwidth, while a single bank of 133MHz (DDR-266) had 2166MB/sec bandwidth. A single bank of PC-133 SDRAM had 1066MB/sec bandwidth and much lower latency. Most RDRAM systems (before the very end) had RDRAM 600 in them, for a bandwidth of 1200MB/sec.

          My system on the floor here with dual-channel 32-bit PC1066 RDRAM and 4200 MB/s calls you a liar.

          At the time (2002) the Intel i850E chipset was released, Rambus/Samsung had the fastest RAM, with twice the bandwidth. Later, Int

      • Re:Rambus... (Score:5, Informative)

        by amorsen (7485) <benny+slashdot@amorsen.dk> on Wednesday July 28, 2010 @01:26AM (#33053828)

        It worked four times as fast (at the time) but it cost more than four times as much.

        Only in bandwidth. Latency sucked big time, and processors back then weren't very good at hiding latency, so real-world non-benchmark performance wasn't any better than decent SDRAM.

    • Re:Rambus... (Score:5, Informative)

      by tlhIngan (30335) <slashdot@wor[ ]et ['f.n' in gap]> on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @11:35PM (#33053614)

      Wow, there's a company I haven't heard of in years. Didn't they make some hideously expensive RAM that was supposed to perform twice as well as normal RAM, but never lived up to the hype? Basically, they patented the design, couldn't get it to work right, and now they're suing the companies who did.

      Actually, they're quite big and raking in the dough. They're in one of the best selling consoles, and in this generation's worst-selling console.

      Yes, the PS2 has 32MB of RAMBUS RDRAM in it. It was one of their big announcements after thair failed foray into PCs.

      And yes, there's also 256MB of XDR DRAM in the PS3 (the other 256 is GDDR3 for the nVidia RSX). XDR technology is owned by RAMBUS.

      Despite not selling well in the PC world, they're doing good enough in other markets. Hell, many /.'ers probably own a PS3 and thus have contributed to this patent trolling. Probably some of those complaining about patent trolls in this article too will extol the virtues of the PS3 (or PS2) in other threads without realizing that they're really just helping RAMBUS.

      • Re:Rambus... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by JackieBrown (987087) <dbroome@gmail.com> on Wednesday July 28, 2010 @12:06AM (#33053714)

        If we PS3 owners can get past the fact that we are helping Sony, I doubt helping RAMBUS will cause much worry.

      • Probably some of those complaining about patent trolls in this article too will extol the virtues of the PS3 (or PS2) in other threads without realizing that they're really just helping RAMBUS.

        It's not outside of the realm of possibility that someone complaining about the patent trolling is actually using the PS3 browser and the troll's own products to do so. (Though hopefully no self-respecting slashdotter would be doing so anyway. Not that there aren't plenty of slashdotters who don't respect themselves.)

      • Don't forget the Nintendo 64 [wikipedia.org]!
      • For the N64 but they didn't use it for the Gamecube or Wii. (Not sure what the DS or PSP use.)
    • by arivanov (12034)

      Didn't they make some hideously expensive RAM that was supposed to perform twice as well as normal RAM, but never lived up to the hype?

      It actually does. Or at least used to all the way until Core came out. I have a dual P3 733MHz, Intel 840 chipset with a dual channel RAMBUS in the loft (old HP Kayak).

      http://foswiki.sigsegv.cx/bin/view/Net/DebianXU800 [sigsegv.cx]

      It performs better than a lot of P4s or anything prior to Core systems. The problem with Rambus was that it was so hideously expensive that noone could afford a sane amount of memory so any advantage achieved through RAM speedup was lost on VM swapping madly. If you manage to collect enough RD

    • by fishbowl (7759)

      I upgraded a call center once (about 1500 workstations) where it turned out to be significantly less expensive to replace all the computers, than to upgrade the RAMBUS memory.

  • The SCO outlook (Score:5, Insightful)

    by coldmist (154493) on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @11:01PM (#33053488) Homepage

    Although their chances are better than SCO's (debatable, but I'd give it to them), this story sounds as rosy as an SCO fanboy writing their weekly column.

    "could mean millions" Could. Could.

    I really wish we had a news service that posted honest stories.

    Rambus has sued the world, and finally one of them stuck. nVidia is the loser this time. If only Rambus would die, then we could all move on in life.

    See how much nicer that would be! ;)

    • Re:The SCO outlook (Score:5, Informative)

      by Lawbeefaroni (246892) on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @11:42PM (#33053636) Homepage

      "One of them stuck?" Of the top of my head, Samsung recently (2010) settled with them for something like $200M plus $100/year for 5 years for licensing, plus shares for a grand total of $900M.

      Hate to break the news to you but Rambus isn't going to die. Unless someone like Samsung buys them.

      • by Splab (574204)

        In order for Samsung to buy out Rambus shares have to be for sale. If we assume they are willing to sell those shares, and it got out Samsung was buying, the price per share would explode since everyone using Rambus technology would be forced to ensure no single competitor sits on the IP. It's better for everyone to have one independent company sitting on the IP licensing it out.

  • "could reap"!? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Dahamma (304068)

    How do you think they have lasted 10 years beyond any product they have actually manufactured??

    Their only business in the last decade has been patent trolling... and business has been good.

  • Lawful Evil (Score:4, Funny)

    by mmmmbeer (107215) on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @11:33PM (#33053608)

    Because crime doesn't pay, but exploiting flawed laws pays big time!

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Naming the character alignment for r/l entities sounds like a fun nerd-game.

      I claim that the pirate-bay guys are Chaotic Neutral!

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by noidentity (188756)
      You joke, but it's exactly true. If you commit a crime, you only have your own resources and power to carry it out. But if you get the state to do the work for you, then you have virtually unlimited power. The more you can have laws made which restrict the free market, the more power you have against the other guy (sure, the other guy might be able to wield said power, but if you got the laws made the right way, you will have better control of their power).
  • Number Bias? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Revotron (1115029) on Wednesday July 28, 2010 @12:41AM (#33053762)

    Reporting possible settlements as stated by the complainant's GC is like buying a diamond ring from a jewelry store at the sticker price. It's going to be a horribly, horribly overblown number way above reason and logic, because their goal is to squeeze every penny out of you. It's just like buying a car - only chumps pay the sticker price.

    Even if Rambus can prove every single violation, there's a great deal of doubt in my mind that the judge will actually award them what they think it's worth.

  • Rambus, a designer of semiconductor chips, won a long-running patent battle with NVIDIA

    I can't help but wonder, eventually these sorts of lawsuits go from the cost of business to personal between CEOs. Since CEOs invest so much time and energy in winning these personal buisness battles, why don't they simply box it out in the ring, and sell tickets? Both companies effectively have unlimited funds for the ensuing 5-10 year legal battle, and ultimately it's really a 50/50 coin flip as to who owes who how much

  • RAMBUS are patent trolls.... WHO KNEW? maybe someone should have tried to slap them harder after their last debacle
  • When you are convicted of collusion, never mind all the companies that get away with it all the time, but if we convict someone of collusion it should not be just a slap on the wrist.

    I could go on but there is a lot of issues here and the US has a lot of law on the books that favor corporate 'individuals' over their actual citizenry. I keep going back to that Chinese curse, may you live in interesting times.

  • I don't know about you guys, but when I was in school a million years ago, representing someone else's work as your own was grounds for immediate failure of the course and very possibly removal from the program.

    I'm assuming now, with the past decade or more of patent trolling, that this is no longer the case in business schools, and representing someone else's work as your own is now encouraged and actually preferred by the staff and faculty to actually producing your own results. right?

    I mean, they're supp

  • I remember being on forums years ago when Rambus initially started its "Troll the World" tour. For some reason there were a lot of people who felt it necessary to tirelessly defend this company. They had an extraordinarily difficult time following logic and reason, and for some reason defended Rambus like it was their buddy in a bar fight. I thought they must have fallen into three categories. First, they are Rambus-paid trolls, which I kind of doubted there were many of, since there are so many stupid
  • A judgment in Rambus's favor would be worth at least $397 million, according to the company's general counsel, ...

    Sounds like just enough to pay the attorneys ...

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