Rambus, Micron settle patent, antitrust disputes

Rambus will get $280 million from a broad cross-licensing agreement

Rambus and Micron Technology said Monday the companies had signed a broad patent cross-license agreement, giving Micron the right to use any Rambus patent for the manufacture of specified integrated circuit products, including memories.

The deal between the two companies is part of Rambus' stated strategy to collaborate with the industry to develop innovative technologies and possibly drive standards. The company which has indicated its preference to settle rather than litigate, however said earlier this year it would if required "aggressively defend our IP."

The agreement settles all outstanding patent and antitrust claims between the two companies, and also covers products from Elpida, a DRAM maker which Micron acquired earlier this year.

Under the agreement which ends nearly 13 years of litigation between the two companies, Micron will pay Rambus quarterly royalty payments over the next seven years capped at US$10 million per quarter, for a total of about $280 million.

Micron will have the option to extend the initial term of the agreement for additional renewal periods. Certain memory products will have a perpetual, paid-up license after the end of the initial term, the companies said.

Rambus settled in June with SK Hynix for a $240 million patent licensing agreement, ending a nearly 13-year patent dispute between the two companies over memory-chip technology. Rambus and STMicroelectronics announced soon after that they had settled all legal disputes also in a 13-year-old feud, and a new agreement would settle outstanding claims and expand existing licenses.

Set up in 1990, Rambus' plan was to license its proprietary DRAM technology, called Rambus DRAM to DRAM manufacturers and to achieve industry-wide adoption of RDRAM.

But as a new SDRAM standard got popular, the company "prepared to demand license fees and to potentially bring infringement suits against those manufacturers who insisted on adopting the competing SDRAM standard" according to a court opinion in January. Rambus believed its inventions were broad enough to encompass SDRAM. Intel's support for RDRAM had meanwhile also waned.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware also found that Rambus' spoliation of evidence was in bad faith, and declared as sanction that the 12 patents-in-suit could not be enforced against Micron. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Jose division in May imposed a monetary sanction on Rambus for $250 million for spoliation of evidence, in a case filed by SK Hynix, then Hyundai Electronics Industries, in 2000.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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