US FTC drops Rambus antitrust case

The Supreme Court upheld an appellate ruling against the agency in February, effectively ending the DRAM-related suit

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has officially dropped its antitrust case against memory maker Rambus, after losing a U.S. Supreme Court case in February.

The FTC announced late Thursday that it has dismissed the case, in which the agency accused Rambus of gaming a DRAM (dynamic RAM) standards setting body.

The Supreme Court in February rejected the FTC's request to continue the case by upholding an appeals court ruling against the FTC.

The agency, in mid-2006, charged Rambus with engaging in an illegal monopoly, saying the company failed to disclose its patents on DRAM-related technology while working with the standards-setting organization the Joint Electron Device Engineering Council (JEDEC) to create royalty-free or low-royalty standards for DRAM technology.

"While we remain disappointed by the decision of the Court of Appeals, we of course respect the court's opinion and will move forward," Richard Feinstein, director of the FTC's Bureau of Competition, said in a statement.

"The standard-setting issues that were at the heart of this case remain important, both as a matter of antitrust policy, and in order to protect consumers, and we will remain vigilant in this area."

Rambus said it was pleased to see the end of the antitrust case.

"Rambus has prevailed on similar JEDEC-related claims at the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, in front of a jury, and before a federal district court," Thomas Lavelle, senior vice president and general counsel, said in a statement.

"The FTC's decision to drop its remaining JEDEC-related claim against us was the right one."

The appeals court had suggested the FTC presented weak evidence against Rambus.

Several other memory makers had urged the FTC to press forward on the case in an attempt to reduce royalty fees associated with Rambus' technologies.

Rambus and other memory vendors continue to have outstanding civil lawsuits against each other related to memory licensing.

The FTC brought antitrust charges against Rambus in 2002. After a trial, the full commission reversed a decision by Chief Administrative Law Judge Stephen McGuire, who ruled for Rambus in early 2004.

In early 2007, the FTC required Rambus to license its DRAM chips to other vendors, and it capped the royalty fees Rambus could charge.

Also in February, a U.S. district court ruled that Hynix Semiconductor must pay Rambus a prior damage award plus a licensing fee on nearly every DRAM memory chip it makes.

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Grant Gross

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