Bringing an end to a saga that has spanned over a decade and most of the life of this site, what’s widely considered the final major legal battle between Rambus and a memory manufacturer has come to an end. Burying the hatchet, Micron and Rambus ended their fight this week with Micron finally agreeing to license Rambus’s technologies and to pay royalties for their use.

According to the Wall Street Journal Micron will be paying Rambus a 0.6% royalty rate on all impacted products, which given Rambus’s wide patent holdings essentially covers all forms of DDR SDRAM and in turn impacts vast majority of Micron’s RAM offerings. The agreement will run for 7 years, with Micron having the option to renew it at that time (as some of Rambus’s patents should still be valid even in 2020). Notably the royalty rates are capped at $10 million per quarter – adding up to $280 million over the period of the 7 year agreement – so the final price tag will depend on Micron’s DRAM revenue if they end up staying under the cap.

This agreement comes just over 2 years after Rambus’s last major fight with Micron, which saw Hynix and Micron successfully defend themselves against claims by Rambus that the two were conspiring against Rambus. That ruling meant that the two firms were not liable for treble damages to Rambus, but it left the matter of patent infringement unresolved. Since then Hynix has settled with Rambus, leaving Micron as the last man standing until now.

Ultimately with the settlement of the Micron fight, Rambus has now signed licensing agreements with all of the major memory manufacturers. This means that although it’s taken the better part of a decade, Rambus has ultimately proven successful in proving that SDRAM and its descendants infringe on Rambus’s patents, allowing them to collect royalties on all of the common forms of DRAM produced today. With the last memory manufacturer now licensing their technology, the only outstanding suits (that we’re aware of) all involve companies who develop memory controllers.

With that said, this does leave the question of where Rambus goes from here. In the PC space RDRAM/XDR has long been dead, and in the console space all of the current-generation consoles are using DDR3 or GDDR5, with the remaining XDR consumption tapering off alongside the last-generation Playstation 3. But there is a very real need for faster memory technologies, especially at the very high end where NVIDIA and other GDDR5 consumers are looking at more exotic solutions such as integrating/stacking DRAM on-chip as GDDR5 reaches its own apex.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

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  • Rather-A-Wally-Raleigh - Wednesday, December 18, 2013 - link

    "There other minor wins, notably in networking equipment where its high speed serial nature was a key advantage"

    Got a citation for that? Not that I'm calling you a liar, or anything. I'm aware of Infiniband using it, but I'm genuinely curious to see what manufacturers are putting it in which devices. I'm only accustomed to Adtran and Cisco equipment, and I'm not aware of any of their tech that uses it.

    All I can find so far are generic quotes about it being suitable for Infiniband, 10 GigE, and Cisco deciding NOT to use it. It would be really cool to see what kind of a difference their serial tech makes over parallel types.
  • jokeyrhyme - Wednesday, December 11, 2013 - link

    Some of their patents were actually filed after attending public JEDEC meetings. They basically patented features being discussed by their competitors at a standards meeting. Not cool.

    They did have some other patents of value, and the rest of JEDEC were specifically trying to avoid paying Rambus. So what Rambus did could have been viewed as retaliation, but either way it was a nasty situation.
  • cbf - Friday, December 13, 2013 - link

    That's a story Micron made up. In the end, Micron was unable to persuade the courts that's what happened (see my above post). There's ample evidence to show that Rambus was well along in developing its technology, independent of what was going on at JEDEC, and that most of the JEDEC participants knew what Rambus was doing (since Rambus was actively trying to sell its technology to the large memory manufacturers -- and showed much under non-disclosure).

    DDR was deliberately designed to avoid Rambus technology, but ended infringing on a handful of claims in the Rambus patents anyway.
  • KAlmquist - Saturday, December 14, 2013 - link

    Your link didn't work for me, but if you are referring to April 28, 2008 Appeals Court decision in Rambus v. Federal Trade Commission, it doesn't really contradict what jokeyrhyme wrote. In that case, the FTC conceded that what could have happened was as follows: The JEDEC requires its members to license patents required to implement JEDEC standards at reasonable rates. In order to get higher royalties for its patents, Rambus, in violation of JEDEC rules, withheld the knowledge that it held or was planning to obtain patents on the memory technology, thereby allowing Rambus to reveal the patents after the standard was issued and compel other companies to license Rambus patents at a rate higher than JEDEC would have allowed.

    The FTC lost because, according to the Court of Appeals, this type of patent ambush is legal (or at least doesn't violate any laws that the FTC has jurisdiction over). It would have been a different matter if the FTC had proved that the patented technology wouldn't have been included in the standard if it weren't for the deception on the part of Rambus.

    The Court also expressed skepticism about some of the factual determinations, but that didn't factor into the result. In particular, the Court doubted that the particular behavior described by jokeyrhyme--patenting features subsequently to discussing them at a standards meeting--was prohibited by JEDEC rules.
  • dgingeri - Thursday, December 12, 2013 - link

    Rambus initially introduced the double data rate concept into the SDRAM memory standard under the guise of a free technology, knowing full well that they had a patent pending on it, and then sued all memory makers when they actually started using it. They cheated in getting everyone to use their technology and screwed them over claiming rights on it. We all pay more for memory because of the lawyer fees from this tactic.

    If they had said they had a patent pending on this from the very beginning they may have gotten some nice licensing deals, and possibly even more revenues overall, with no law suits. We'd all be paying less if they'd been honest.

    This is a perfect example on how NOT to run a company. The management at Rambus is just generally incompetent.
  • jdon - Friday, December 13, 2013 - link

    Greed and maliciousness != incompetence... "up to $280 million over the period of the 7 year agreement" sounds competently malicious, greedy, underhanded, and generally scum-baggy.
  • dgingeri - Friday, December 13, 2013 - link

    They could have made more money, not paying so much to their lawyers and court costs, if they had done things honestly. They lost money in doing things the way they did. That is incompetence. Malicious, underhanded, and scum-baggery is incompetence in the business world. Honest business owners and executives make money honestly all the time, providing needed services and products in exchange for a cost.

    To do things underhandedly always bears a cost. It's easier in some cases, but not as effective, and costs future business. It's only keeping the short run in mind, and disregarding the long term. That is complete incompetence in business.
  • Wolfpup - Monday, December 16, 2013 - link

    Unless there's something different going on that hasn't been presented in the past, they're worse than a typical troll, actively taking steps to get their tech into other products and then suing after it happened. I have NO idea why anyone settled with them as so far as I know it was open and shut, and no one owed Rambus anything.
  • nikdanjor - Wednesday, December 18, 2013 - link

    Yeah, the case against Rambus was so open and shut that Micron is paying $280 million to settle.

    There's an old saying that surely applies here: Money talks; bullshit walks.
  • Harry_Wild - Monday, December 23, 2013 - link

    If you were a RAMBUS shareholder back in 1997-2000 era and held this stock till now - no value at all! It had all the patents on SDRAM and made possible DDR series of memory! Rambus made a mistake based on an expert recommendation that they could shredded some documents that were technical that talked about relationship with other MMs in meetings. They use this; against Rambus in court to stop Rambus. It was called spoliation! Rambus spend like over 14 years in court trying to collect royalties from the MMs and spend around $400 million in litigatin expenses and collected close to the same amount in settlements. Management just picked the wrong outside litigators every 5 years! Rambus management at the beginning did not settle matter when some MMs offer a 2% royalty. They wanted 5% plus and got at the end around .25%!

    Very sad!

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