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USPTO Declares Invalid Third of Three Critical Rambus Patents 113

Posted by timothy
from the sssssstrike-three! dept.
slew writes "This is a followup to this earlier story about 2 of 3 of Rambus's 'critical' patents being invalidated. Apparently now it's a hat-trick." There's something that seems unsavory and wasteful about a business environment in which a company's stock value "fluctuates sharply on its successes and failures in patent litigation and licensing." The linked article offers a brief but decent summary of the way Rambus has profited over the years from these now-invalidated patents.
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USPTO Declares Invalid Third of Three Critical Rambus Patents

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 27, 2012 @06:57PM (#38846643)
    Up with this we will not put!
    • by nadaou (535365)

      I think that the grammar police should have their own theme music.
      or maybe just cue the minor key.

      (due props to "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka")

      • In other words ... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Taco Cowboy (5327) on Friday January 27, 2012 @08:58PM (#38847385) Journal

        The way Rambus has profited over the years from these now-invalidated patents ...

        In other words, Rambus is nothing but a scam

        And the amazing part is that the America knowingly allows such a scam to exist for such a looooooooooonnng time !!

        • by Anonymous Coward

          And the amazing part is that the America knowingly allows such a scam to exist for such a looooooooooonnng time !!

          The U.S. government: Corruption, corruption, corruption.

        • by dpilot (134227)

          Has nobody here heard the (in)famous quote by Churchill? All the grammar griping, and no attribution.

    • by MrHanky (141717) on Friday January 27, 2012 @07:23PM (#38846835) Homepage Journal

      So you don't know what infinitive is, right?

      • He right know what infinitive is, don't this need prove for criticizing grammar prescriptivist.

        How sense this criticism make, another matter is.

        Yet no proof there is of malapropism.

  • rambus. EOT.
  • Any money back? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by icebike (68054) * on Friday January 27, 2012 @07:05PM (#38846713)

    So do Nvidia, Hewlett-Packard , et al have any chance of recovering any money they paid to Rambus, or are they simply out the entire amount, or has no actual money traded hands yet?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Most licences are in fact in return for indemnity from suit; this isn't quite the same as saying that the patent is being violated. Rambus hasn't sued them post-agreement, so there it is. There's an arguable misrepresentation claim though.

    • by Joce640k (829181)

      So do Nvidia, Hewlett-Packard , et al have any chance of recovering any money they paid to Rambus

      Depends on the exact wording of the agreement they signed ... but probably not.

      Patent agreements usually start out "we accept that the patent is valid...", I never saw one with an "If this patent turns out to be invalid..." clause.

    • So do Nvidia, Hewlett-Packard , et al have any chance of recovering any money they paid to Rambus

      NAS, but I believe the legal principle of caseus durusapplies, and rightly so.

      There's zero incentive to fight patent trolls if you can roll over (which encourages them to seek further victims) and then press the big reset button when someone with more principles makes a stand.

  • by ackthpt (218170) on Friday January 27, 2012 @07:06PM (#38846717) Homepage Journal

    And it ain't over, yet, because they can still appeal - considering the loss of revenue, you can bet they will.

    Can't really call this a victory, because Rambus received a cut of memory sales for years, which every PC buyer ultimately paid.

  • ARM holdings? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bartoku (922448) on Friday January 27, 2012 @07:13PM (#38846757)

    There's something that seems unsavory and wasteful about a business environment in which a company's stock value "fluctuates sharply on its successes and failures in patent litigation and licensing."

    If ARM holdings licensing came into question it would probably destroy the company's stock. I am loving the way the ARM architecture is handled, a lot more competition than x86, and it seems to be advancing quickly now that it has becoming popular.

    I was trying to imagine today if ARM holdings could survive in a world without IP laws. I think yes it could. It seems that getting a hold of ARM holdings processor plans, from something like bittorrent, would not be super useful even to Texas Instruments, Samsung, or Nvidia engineers. ARM works with them to implement the design, so the payment agreement would probably just be altered slightly and ARM would have to protect its disclosure of ARM architecture details a little more closely. Perhaps ARM would morph more into a standards body and not be as profitable though? I am curious what someone with more info on the topic can share please!

    • Re:ARM holdings? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anthony Mouse (1927662) on Friday January 27, 2012 @09:12PM (#38847459)

      I don't think anyone has ever made a particularly strong argument for eliminating hardware patents. The reason why people so very loathe Rambus was not the quality of their patents (although they did, as it turns out, happen to be invalid) -- it was that they went to the JEDEC standards meetings and encouraged the standards body to adopt their technology, without saying a word about it potentially infringing their patents, and then proceeded to sue everyone in the memory industry after the standard was set in stone and shipped on millions of motherboards.

      It was the troll behavior that got everyone up in arms: Nobody whatsoever minds if you come to them and offer a license for your validly patented hardware technology before they ship it in their products. If the amount you're asking is less than the value of the technology to their company, you have yourself a mutually-agreeable deal. The problem is when someone (like Rambus, but unlike ARM) waits until you've unknowingly committed to ship several million infringing units before jumping out from under a bridge and flinging lawsuits in every direction.

    • by hairyfeet (841228)

      I don't think a world without IP laws would hurt ARM at all, look at the Zilog Z80. the Zilog corp made only a tiny fraction of the Z80s and many were made without a license from Zilog but the abundance of Z80 chips at insanely cheap prices and the huge piles of code that were written for that chip keep Zilog selling chips to this very day. i mean think about that for a minute, a chip made when Reagan was president and everyone listened to music on cassettes is STILL selling. Because so many engineers and p

    • I can tell you that seeing the logic design for an ARM microcontroller would be extremely useful to TI, Samsung etc (if they'd be willing to ignore corporate ethics). Not only could they copy some of the design strategy for their own parts, they could literally implement the thing no problem (although I doubt they'd go that far). ARM provides support, but they don't have that much to do with the implementation. Even an amateur (read: foreign) IC design company could easily take the RTL and turn it into some
      • by bartoku (922448)
        ARM Holdings does seem like one of the good guys from what little I know, especially compared how Intel seems to horde the x86 architecture rights and keep others out. With your knowledge and experience, do you think ARM Holdings could survive in a world with no patent or other IP laws? I would still imagine companies could enter into contract license agreements, like ARM could say to TI: we will give you the latest ARM design for some upfront money and a cut for each piece of silicon you produce. Now TI co
        • ARM could not be open source and survive. They sell proprietary logic designs that no one can use unless you pay them. They could not make a business just selling a design once to TI for the first-to-market profits alone. IP laws are important for ARM, and they're important for R&D in general. This is especially true in the USA where manufacturing keeps getting outsourced. IP laws and patents are ideally a good thing as long as you don't allow abuse of the system.
    • If ARM holdings licensing came into question it would probably destroy the company's stock.

      Their interests would be more than adequately protected by copyright.

  • What's wrong... (Score:5, Informative)

    by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Friday January 27, 2012 @07:13PM (#38846759)

    It's not that a company's price fluctuates with the state of its patent portfolio. The problem is that 3 patents, which should have never been issued in the first place, terrorized inventors and suppressed innovation for multiple years. This is squarely an indictment of the USPTO and of the Congress.

    • This is squarely an indictment of the USPTO and of the Congress.

      Or if you go in for root-cause analysis, the State mechanism.

      • What do you mean by that?

        • The idea that some people who claim to know best should be able to make and impose arbitrary rules upon everybody else and back those rules up with violence. The US Patent System is one example.

          The rules of the US patent system were dreampt up by some central planners, and in this case were exploited by the corporations to the detriment of the progress of arts and science.

          Unintended consequences, corruption, incompetence - the 'why' doesn't matter so much as the actual outcomes and the means by which the o

          • Are you arguing for the complete absence of laws? Or that we only adopt laws that are agreed upon by every member of society?

            I'm assuming you mean something more moderate.

            • I'm assuming you mean something more moderate.

              No, probably more radical.

              States killed half a billion people in the 20th Century. So, in addition to the economic damage they wreak, that death-toll has to be included in the desire to keep them around.

              That's not to argue for an unregulated society, but rather one in which the regulations are voluntarily accepted. Robert Murphy is one scholar who is working out systems of private laws, which may provide an alternative. Violent action is not initiated under hi

              • But how do you enforce this without at least a core set of laws? For example:

                Me: I want to kick puppies.
                Community: No, our private laws don't allow that.
                Me: I'll do it anyway. Try to stop me! You can't, because you don't believe in violence-enforced legal systems.

                or...

                Me: I want to kick puppies.
                Community: No, our private laws don't allow that.
                Me: I'm actually my own community. In my private laws, that's allowed. So go pound sand.

                Of all the solutions that seem workable to me, the one that seems most

                • Me: I'll do it anyway. Try to stop me! You can't, because you don't believe in violence-enforced legal systems.

                  You can't be arrested today for saying you want to kick puppies. If you kick puppies, the State may exact retributive justice upon you. Some States also prevent the puppies' owner from defending the puppies, before or after the fact. The private law systems I've seen allow property owners to defend their properties. Individuals may use violence in self- or third-party defense. The 'not-State' j

  • by Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) on Friday January 27, 2012 @07:17PM (#38846781)

    Patents are a property; changes to the scope of existence of a property right change the value of the property governed by that right.

    The market should estimate the possibility of a company's winning or losing a patent case; once the decision is made, the actual value of the company has changed because of the new determination of whether the company has the right.

    The only alternative would be to split the patent right King-solomon style. But that only happens if both parties are willing to settle.

    Parties are sometimes not willing to settle. They may know or mistakenly believe that they are in the right, or they may expect they can force the other side to settle for more later.

    In addition, mucking up their estimation as to whether they will win--and thus whether it makes sense to settle--is the fact that empirical research demonstrates that lawyers are more attractive to clients when they project a higher chance of winning. Thus it is in the interest of the lawyers to artificially inflate the chance of winning by at least some margin--whether done subconsciously or deliberately--and this means parties have biased information when they decide whether to settle.

    Finally, occasionally a court will do something nobody expected, either legitimately for reasons people did not anticipate would motivate them or out of stupidity.

    • Patents are a property;

      What I really like about your comment here is that you begin by using grammar to make it clear that the word "property" means something completely different to you from what it means to the average Slashdot reader. I would normally say "patents are property" but I have this horrible feeling that you are legally right :-)

      Other than that your comment is completely sensible in the context of patents as they are. However, I think what most of us are arguing is that patents are simply too powerful. If someo

      • True--a compulsory licensing scheme is one option that could make more sense. IIRC, courts have sometimes awarded compulsory licenses in the past in patent cases, but it is relatively rare. It may have to do with those cases where there is a strong public interest in allowing the infringing party to continue to infringe, but don't quote me on that--I'd have to look it up.

        One problem with it is that it leaves courts to figure out after-the-fact what "fair" royalty would have been negotiated between the par

        • One thing that would be a problem with it as applied to software patents is how to deal with free software when a company would not have been willing to license its patent for free.

          I don't really see that that's a problem. If you limit licenses to 5% of sales price, then 5% of nothing is nothing. If you are talking about free software companies that are selling software for money then I don't see that it's much more of a problem for them to pay 5% than for another proprietary software company to pay 5%.

          The real problem comes, and this is one of the things which shows why patents should never apply to software in the first case, when you start to apply fixed costs per patent. If t

          • The problem is that if you limit licenses to 5% of nothing, and make licensing compulsory, then free software is competing unfairly, and you have the problem of commercial software using free software that uses patents. The purpose of the patent system is to incentivize creation, and if you are going to have software patents, then letting free software ignore the patents really defeats that purpose by giving the licensee a major disadvantage over free solutions.

            I agree that the proliferation is a problem.

            • The problem is that if you limit licenses to 5% of nothing, and make licensing compulsory, then free software is competing unfairly,

              That is like arguing that the atmosphere competes unfairly with commercial suppliers of breathing gas. It's 100% true, and it's 100% missing the point. The right to use free software with the source code is a matter of fundamental freedom of speech and should be allowed no matter what. This is also the only way that things can work since most free software authors simply don't have the resources to hire lawyers to check if the patents exist. If patents, as a system, can't cope with that, then patents, a

  • I was given a very nice Compaq Deskpro series computer with about a 1.5G P4 (this was a while ago!) and it used their awful RAM. Apparently Compaq designed motherboards for a short time with their product, then rapidly moved away from them because I shortly thereafter got the same exact series computer with about a 2.0G processor and it used normal RAM. Thankfully, they got away from using it quickly.

    I had to purchase a RAM upgrade to bring it from 512K to 1G RAM, and felt absolutely disgusted about HAVIN

    • by kpainter (901021)

      I was given a very nice Compaq Deskpro series computer with about a 1.5G P4 (this was a while ago!)

      Is the reference to time based on the fact that it was a 1.5G P4, or that it was a very nice Compaq? For the later, it must have been a very long time ago indeed!

    • by wagnerrp (1305589)

      I was given a very nice Compaq Deskpro series computer with about a 1.5G P4 (this was a while ago!)

      The 1.5GHz P4 was never very nice, even a long while ago. A late model P3 of the same time frame would handily outrun it at half the power consumption.

    • by hairyfeet (841228)

      Uhhh...you DO realize that most likely for the price you paid for that RDRAM you could have just shitcanned the board and put a MUCH nicer board in its place? I had a similar situation about a year and a half ago, I just Craigslisted the board under free stuff, slapped in a cheap socket 775 along with a $15 Pentium D and a gb of RAM and it was STILL cheaper than buying that POS RDRAM and i ended up with a much nicer system. hell if you don't want to go to that much effort you can buy those AMD E-350 system

      • Not back then. I paid about $250 for the RAM upgrade IIRC, and a new MB, RAM would have been about $350-400 or so. Things were a bit more expensive back then, and that was a nearly state of the art machine at the time. Nowadays, yeah it would be a no-brainer, but believe me, I did the mental arithmetic about a dozen times before begrudgingly shelling out for the RDRAM's.

        Oh, yeah, another annoying thing; they were only 16 bit I guess, because you had to have two of everything, and had to have a bus termin

        • by hairyfeet (841228)

          You should have tried your local mom and pop PC shop. You wanna find weird shit WE are the place to go, and we usually have plenty of boards and will be happy to cut ya a deal. At my shop i have everything from a PITA old Compaq Deskpro SFF 733Mhz sitting in the closet (I really need to chunk the bitch, but its doing this weird beep code and dammit i want to know what it is but none of the usual lists cover it) to several athlon and Pentium 4 (I'll get rid of those on CL) to just about every kind of part an

          • Man, you are preaching to the choir - you sound like you are describing my house! I just got rid of my Matrox and TARGA cards on e-Bay a few weeks ago,,, I have a whole house full of old computer shit dating back to TRS-80 Model I and Apple II days. And I do mean FULL. I'm in the process of e-Baying anything I think may have some value, the rest is hitting the curb. Unfortunately my stupid state (IL) just passed a law and now I can't throw out ANY electronic devices or risk a $7000.00 fine. Needless

            • by hairyfeet (841228)

              Well if you happen to come across a used C128 that isn't assraping priced holler would ya? i got an ex NASA engineer that has some killer code and specs for a robotic arm he built using one of those as the brain but his got stolen at a trade show in Dallas years ago and i told him i'd keep an eye out. I'm "lucky" in that I've gotten to be buddies with the building super who also does a LOT of work for the city and local colleges so he keeps an eye out and is constantly bringing me free loads of off lease de

      • by ArcherB (796902)

        Uhhh...you DO realize that most likely for the price you paid for that RDRAM you could have just shitcanned the board and put a MUCH nicer board in its place?

        Not in a Compaq system. Compaq systems were very proprietary and probably would not accept any other boards. He would also have to buy a new case, power supply, RAM, motherboard, and video card (probably on board in the Compaq).

        I think he would have broken even price wise, but he would have spent an awful lot of time to simply salvage the processor, HDD keyboard, mouse and monitor.

        • Actually, the later Deskpro's and Evo's from about PII-450 through P4-2.0G had nearly ISA or ATX standard form-factor motherboards. They had the chassis wiring harness arranged for whatever board they made runs of, so for most of the Deskpro's you could use a generic MB, you might have a bit of a time getting the LED's and reset switches wired up, but the board/slot/chassis form-factor was the same as the generic PC motherboards of the day.

          Not so much for the early machines and server products (and of cour

  • Was RAMBUTTS, as that is what they did with their bogus patents. However the Board of Directors though the name might be to telling so they dropped the T's.

    Many PC builders and customers are still sore today.
  • Fraud (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Citizen of Earth (569446) on Friday January 27, 2012 @08:09PM (#38847119)
    USPTO: "Yeah, we approved these totally bogus patents that resulted in billions of dollars of litigation and now we're affirming our own malfeasance. What's your problem?" The USPTO needs to be sued into the stone age for this fraud.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That's a stupid idea. If you do that they'll never bother overturning a patent again as it just invites another lawsuit.

    • by tomhath (637240)
      The problem isn't with the USPTO. Their job is to do a fairly superficial review of the application and approve it if it seems legit. The long and expensive battle happens if someone challenges the patent and the inventor fights the challenge; you can't have that kind of battle over every application or nothing would ever move through the system.

      The problem is when the inventor uses litigation as a club to force licensing on those who "infringe". Once they collect a royalty they can keep it, and use it to

      • The problem is with the whole patent system. Society would be better off without it, and richer, and technology would progress faster. Engineers in particular would be happier.

  • I don't think it's an unsavory or wasteful business environment when a company stock price "fluctuates sharply on its successes and failures in patent litigation and licensing."

    Think of a university research group which discovers a new drug candidate, and forms a company to pursue its further clinical trials and licensing. The financial health of this company will be wholly determined by its ability to patent and license.

    Think of a pharma company which spends $200mil research on each drug candidate, and eve

    • by Tim99 (984437)

      Think of a pharma company which spends $200mil research on each drug candidate, and every four years it gets one $10bil success for 50 failures. The financial health of this company will rest solely on its ability to protect (through patent litigation and licensing) the $10bil revenue that makes up for the $10bil expenses.

      These both seem like cases where the market is operating as intended.

      Pharmacutical companies spend more on marketing http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pharmaceutical_marketing [wikipedia.org] than they do on research http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080105140107.htm [sciencedaily.com]
      As a result there is a strong in-built bias towards existing players.

      This is supported by aggressive patenting, which is one aspect of rentier capitalism http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rentier_capitalism [wikipedia.org] - A mechanism for generating wealth when capital holders "... make money not from producing anything new themselve

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      I don't think it's an unsavory or wasteful business environment when a company stock price "fluctuates sharply on its successes and failures in patent litigation and licensing."

      That, and millions of gamers around the world financed these lawsuits. And I doubt Rambus will be going out of business anytime soon, as millions more gamers will continue to finance Rambus.

      (The PS2 has 32MB of RDRAM, back in the days when RDRAM DIMMs were horrendously overpriced. The PS3 has 256MB of XDR-DRAM, it's successor). I'm g

  • A sudden outbreak of commonsense at the USPTO?

    Whatever it is, it couldn't have happened to a more deserving company.

    It's a shame that the terms of the past settlements probably have clauses keeping the paying party from getting anything back.

  • by spikestabber (644578) <{ten.sekyps} {ta} {ekips}> on Friday January 27, 2012 @09:02PM (#38847405) Homepage
    3 down, many thousands to go.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Calling in Seal Team 6 on the board of directors would have been a preferable solution.

  • Well does this mean that if a company takes out a bogus patent it runs the risk in the future of damages?
    This might be a fair mechanism to slow down patent trolls because the act of taking out as patent is also a potential risk as well as a reward.
    • by tomhath (637240)
      Sadly, probably not. The ones behind this likely cashed in their stock options and left long ago.
  • RMBS 52wk Range: 4.00 - 22.20 Currently around 7.8 I hope they drop like thermite tapping a lake for ice fishing. /Micron Technologies stockholder

If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants. -- Isaac Newton

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