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The Almighty Buck The Courts

Decades-Old Rambus Litigation Against Micron For RDRAM Tech Reaches Settlement 82

Posted by samzenpus
from the now-shake-hands dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The decades-old Rambus litigation against Micron for RDRAM tech finally reached a settlement. RDRAM tech has already been licensed by NVidia and Broadcom and has been used in game consoles such as the Nintendo 64. The preliminary deal is to last 7 years and net $280M for Rambus and Micro to gain access to patent licenses defining the technology."
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Decades-Old Rambus Litigation Against Micron For RDRAM Tech Reaches Settlement

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  • by Naatach (574111) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @09:06PM (#45666459)
    Can you remember when this started?
    • If it's "decades old" how the hell is the bogus patent even still valid?

      • Re:Now I feel old. (Score:5, Informative)

        by t0qer (230538) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @09:16PM (#45666551) Homepage Journal

        Statute of limitations only applies to when a case can be filed. A trial can go on for years past the statute.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          How can Rambus now 'licence' dead patents? Surely now the company must be wound up and consigned to the trash can of history.

          • by Desler (1608317)

            Because they still have the pay the judgement of the case.

          • by tlhIngan (30335)

            How can Rambus now 'licence' dead patents? Surely now the company must be wound up and consigned to the trash can of history.

            Actually, it is in trouble these days - neither the PS4 nor the Xbone use RDRAM anymore. Before that, Rambus made a ton of money for RDRAM inside the PS2 (the best selling console in the world, period) and XDR-DRAM in the PS3.

            But now the PS4 uses GDDR5, and the Xbone uses regular DDR3.

      • Re:Now I feel old. (Score:4, Informative)

        by icebike (68054) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @09:17PM (#45666559)

        Exactly,

        Join a consortium to develop a standard, sneak out at a quarter to four and patent the whole thing behind everyone's back and start throwing sue balls at everyone. They never had an original idea, or a working product.

        • Re:Now I feel old. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by saleenS281 (859657) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @10:24PM (#45667049) Homepage
          They absolutely had both an original idea and a working product. Just because they didn't have manufacturing facilities doesn't mean they didn't produce a product. Does AMD not have a working product because they spun-out and sold-off Global Foundries? Does Sony not have a product because they use AMD CPUs? RDRAM was absolutely rambus's product, that was never up for debate. What was up for debate was whether DDR memory infringed on their patents - it did, and they won just about all of their lawsuits.
          • RDRAM itself is an original idea. Synchronous memory and double clocking were not. Rambus acted in bad faith by participating in the JEDEC process to standardize SDRAM and then backing out to create patents on technologies they learned about from that participation that would be applicable to emerging JEDEC standards. For that they deserve to wither into bankruptcy. I'll never design their devices into a product.

            • by Wootery (1087023)

              Didn't they think of that when they were planning the standardisation process? This stuff clearly wasn't public knowledge (or it would be prior art re. patents), so surely they knew this was a risk...

      • Re:Now I feel old. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by saleenS281 (859657) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @10:26PM (#45667063) Homepage
        First off, it wasn't bogus - which is why micron lost. I'm no lover of RAMBUS but they absolutely had valid patents, and they did sell product. They lost the battle because their product was ultimately inferior and more expensive, but that doesn't change the fact the core technology behind DDR memory infringed on their ideas. As for how it's still valid - it doesn't matter. If you infringe a patent, get sued, and the patent runs out before the court case finishes, you aren't magically exonerated from all the years you infringed on the patent while in court. Doesn't work that way champ.
        • I was referring to the implication that they were still licensing the patent. I get now that it basically meant retroactively.

          As for why it's bogus, I thought we all new the story. They snaked the patents out from under the development group. Probably legal, still a scumbag move.

        • Re:Now I feel old. (Score:5, Informative)

          by Solandri (704621) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @12:36AM (#45667761)

          First off, it wasn't bogus - which is why micron lost. I'm no lover of RAMBUS but they absolutely had valid patents, and they did sell product. They lost the battle because their product was ultimately inferior and more expensive, but that doesn't change the fact the core technology behind DDR memory infringed on their ideas.

          You're badly misunderstanding people's gripe with this whole thing. Of course the patents were valid. The whole point of the consortium was to come up with a non-patented standard, so when Rambus went behind everyone's back and patented the whole shebang of course there was no prior art. The other memory makers had gone out of their way not to patent it.

          And FYI, JEDEC won against Rambus in their lawsuit - Rambus was guilty of patenting stuff which was being discussed in secret at JEDEC. The problem was Rambus was only guilty of violating the terms of membership for JEDEC. The lawyers who drafted the membership agreement neglected to put in any penalties for patenting stuff behind everyone else's back, and as a result the only recourse JEDEC had was to kick Rambus out. There were no federal or criminal charges because they didn't break government law, they broke JEDEC's rules. The patents were still valid though, even though Rambus effectively stole them, because the there was no prior art and the USPTO decided it was patent-worthy.

          Speaking of which, do you really think DDR is worthy of a patent? Counting a clock tick not just when the voltage goes up, but also when the voltage goes down? That should be obvious to a 5-year old.

          • Why was there "no prior art" if Rambus simply took the JEDEC committee's ideas and created patenst? There should be VOLUMES of prior art from the JEDEC meeting minutes to people's scribbles in their notepads. You're seriously telling me that Rambus was the only company attending the meetings to take notes? And they managed to get their patents ramrodded through before anyone on the JEDEC committee decided to take their first note? Ya, no.

            What Rambus did (and lost in court on) was create additional pa
            • by tlhIngan (30335)

              Why was there "no prior art" if Rambus simply took the JEDEC committee's ideas and created patenst? There should be VOLUMES of prior art from the JEDEC meeting minutes to people's scribbles in their notepads. You're seriously telling me that Rambus was the only company attending the meetings to take notes? And they managed to get their patents ramrodded through before anyone on the JEDEC committee decided to take their first note? Ya, no.

              No, what happened is Rambus has the patents already applied for. They

              • Rambus knew that they were intentionally deceiving the standards committee into using patented technology that they did not disclose.

                How is Rambus not liable for fraud [wikipedia.org] in this case? Surely there must be more complexity to it?

    • Yes, it was in 2000. Rambus has only existed since 1990 and they didn't start suing people until 2000. Unless you're a teenager I don't see how you couldn't.
      • by icebike (68054)

        Had you clicked the link in the summary you would have seen this as the second sentence:

        The two have been mired in litigation since 1990, which is when Rambus first sought license fees and threatened infringement lawsuits against memory makers who turned to the popular SDRAM standard over its own.

        Rambus started suing immediately after they formed the company.

    • by Ecuador (740021)

      I remember Intel trying to stuff some stupidly expensive, high latency RD-RAM down our throats around '99-2000 in some sort of deal with Rambus (a company probably even more unethical than Intel) where they both would win and consumers... not so much...
      Anyway, depending on how you see it, "decades old' is either an exaggeration, or a very appropriate statement, in line with the usual factual and to-the-point slashdot summaries.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Well, there was probably one or two optimizations in RD-RAM that seemed meaningful over "regular" RAM at the time (probably had to do with timing and read/write operations, though- didn't RD-RAM read on both up-tick and down-tick of clock cycles, or something like that?), and Intel thought it'd really make the Pentium 4 a powerhouse system. Except Intel really overreached with the P4 (and Itanium was developed around then too, right?), and forgot the most important part about RAM, that being the "Random Acc

        • You missed a step in the P3 -> Core, which was the Pentium M. Intel was pretty much forced to build it, because power hungry P4's sucked in laptops.

          • by Dogtanian (588974)

            You missed a step in the P3 -> Core, which was the Pentium M. Intel was pretty much forced to build it, because power hungry P4's sucked in laptops.

            I remember at the time (mid-2000s?) *before* the original Core line came out, at least one article in Personal Computer World magazine extolled the virtues of the Pentium M. They quite seriously suggested it was worth considering for use in a desktop system. (IIRC, there were desktop motherboards that supported the Pentium M, the only issue was that you had to take more care with the heatsink and cooling than you would with a Pentium 4- or something like that).

            • I'm writing this on a laptop with a 1.6GHz Pentium M CPU. Speed wise, its about equivalent to a P4 2.4GHz, most due to (I think) a shorter pipeline and 2MB of full speed cache.

              It still works pretty well. Struggles a bit now with high bitrate h264 though.
              Not bad for a laptop from 2004.

        • by epine (68316)

          Getting "gobs" of RD-RAM involved fat modules.

          Aside from muck-raking HP, The Register also did a lot to raise public awareness of problems with Intel in the P4 era.

          Caminogate failure finally explained [theregister.co.uk]

          RD-RAM was supposed to support three slots, but they couldn't make it work. It was one fiasco after another.

          Mercifully, we got AMD64 out of the deal and a healthy competitor until Intel's Israeli team kicked out the CoreDuo.

          Intel subsequently played the UEFI card, but it's a dim echo of their original agenda.

        • You also forget that the adoption of Pentium 4 didn't actually take off until the release of the Intel i845 chipset, which allowed the usage of good ol' DDR SDRAM. With that, a P4-based system didn't cost in excess of $1800.

          RDRAM was an albatross around Pentium 4's neck except in very few usage scenarios. You're right though - the super deep pipelines that only existed to ramp the clock rate sky high meant that a whole lot of clock was wasted on branch prediction failures. The so-called NetBurst architec

    • I remember back in 2000 when Rambus was the most hated company on Slashdot. Everyone hated Microsoft, but at least acknowledged that they were producing products. Rambus was just a dirty parasite.

    • by KlomDark (6370)

      I remember this from way too long ago. I figured it had wrapped up years ago. Was surprised to see it's just now reaching settlement. This was even before OJ's low-speed chase...

  • Hot Grits Indeed! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rueger (210566) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @09:13PM (#45666531) Homepage
    Wow. I can remember the days when this was a meme that all of the cool kids tossed out while laughing with derision!
  • by RelliK (4466) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @09:19PM (#45666583)

    This is absolutely disgusting. Rambus is the ultimate patent troll. For those not familiar, here is some history.

    Back in the 90's, Rambus became a member of JEDEC, an industry consortium of RAM manufacturers. JEDEC rules require members to disclose any patents that are relevant to the technology being discussed. Rambus didn't. It sat in on the meetings, listened, and modified its pending patent applications to cover DDR RAM. After the new RAM standard was adopted, Rambus surfaced its submarine patents and started suing everyone left and right.

    Add to that the fact is that Rambus itself does not manufacture anything -- it's a technology licencing house that has a few engineers and an army of lawyers -- and you get a perfect example of a patent troll.

    • by Soporific (595477)

      Why wouldn't the companies being sued use that information in their defense then? Or rather, why didn't it work?

      ~S

      • The other companies won a few rounds of the lawsuits based on that, and I want to say Rambus was actually found to have committed fraud at one point. But Rambus won enough rounds of lawsuits to keep bringing in money.

      • by RelliK (4466) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @09:49PM (#45666813)

        Because US patent system effectively legalizes extortion. Some manufacturers rolled over and paid "licencing", but others, like Infineon decided to fight. The jury in Infineon v. Rambus ruled in favor of Infineon, but then Rambus appealed to the federal circuit and got that decision overturned. PJ, of groklaw fame, put it thusly: "federal circuit has never seen a patent it didn't like".

        This is just a short summary, you can find more info if you like. Rambus extorted money from pretty much everyone who has so much as touched RAM.

      • a) The patents were originally filed before Rambus joined JEDEC.
        b) The patents were amended after Rambus left JEDEC.

        • by jonwil (467024)

          This is exactly why the patent system needs to change to make it impossible to amend patents after they have been filed.

        • a) The patents were originally filed before Rambus joined JEDEC.
          b) The patents were amended after Rambus left JEDEC.

          s/left/was kicked out of/

    • by Pinhedd (1661735) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @10:42PM (#45667143)

      Add to that the fact is that Rambus itself does not manufacture anything -- it's a technology licencing house that has a few engineers and an army of lawyers -- and you get a perfect example of a patent troll.

      ARM Holdings PLC is an R&D company that doesn't manufacture anything. They generate all of their revenue through licencing IP to third parties whom in turn do the manufacturing. I do not see anyone calling them a patent troll.

      Rambus Inc. is definitely a shady corporation but simply failing to manufacture products with IP that one owns and initiating litigation against those who infringe upon it does not automatically make one a patent troll.

  • The same judge also ruled that the wheel "appears to have prior art, per Babylonians." Romans gotta pay up.

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