While Rambus has settled in one form or another with most of the major players in the computing industry, one of the remaining holdouts has been NVIDIA. NVIDIA has already lost to Rambus in court over some infringement cases, while cases over other products and patents have been ongoing. As a chipset, SoC, and GPU provider, NVIDIA has a particularly wide exposure to memory-related suits as virtually all of their products contain a memory controller of some kind, giving them ample reason to continue fighting Rambus.

But that fight has finally come to an end. Yesterday Rambus and NVIDIA signed a 5 year licensing agreement, under which NVIDIA gets rights to Rambus's patented technologies, and at the same time both companies drop all outstanding suits aimed at each other. As with other Rambus licensing agreements the specific terms of the deal are private, so how much NVIDIA is paying per the agreement and whether there is a per-product royalty rate attached is unknown.

It's interesting to note though that this comes so soon after two major Rambus losses. In November Rambus lost a major antitrust case against Hynix and Micron, meanwhile in January of this year the United States Patent and Trademark Office ruled that 3 of Rambus's major patents (the Barth patents) were invalid. The Barth patents have been Rambus's biggest weapons, and they were the patents that defeated NVIDIA in the infringement suit that NVIDIA previously lost. Given the timing of this latest settlement, it stands to reason that a weakened Rambus was willing to settle with NVIDIA on far more favorable terms - to the point where it would be cheaper than continuing the suit - but as the terms of the deal are not public we'll never know for sure.

In any case, with NVIDIA finally settling there are now only a few smaller holdouts remaining. The Wall Street Journal names the remaining parties as LSI Corp (storage controllers, including SandForce), MediaTek (SoCs), and STMicro (everything from SoCs to ICs).

Source: The Wall Street Journal

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  • ananduser - Thursday, February 9, 2012 - link

    ...if only Apple took a page from Rambus' experience.
  • tayb - Thursday, February 9, 2012 - link

    I would not. Why would I want to license my patented technology to a competitor? I would rather be the sole offering in the market and send them back to the drawing board.

    Of course, regulatory boards would probably step in and stop me... but I would not do it willingly. And if you were the owner of a business I doubt you would either.
  • Exodite - Thursday, February 9, 2012 - link

    This is why we can't have nice things.
  • tayb - Thursday, February 9, 2012 - link

    We can't have nice things because I fronted the research costs and would like some semblance of exclusivity on a market I essentially created? You are more than welcome to bring a competing offering but abusing my research costs, launching a competing offering at a lower price (because you don't have research costs to recoup), and then hoping I'll settle for an insignificant licensing fee at a later date is not at all fair in my opinion.
  • FaaR - Thursday, February 9, 2012 - link

    What exactly is it you claim Rambus researched? It's been well established pretty much all they've sued people over is stuff presented in open standards talks that they've snuck out the back door, patented and backdated to a previous patent, then surprised everyone else with.
  • tayb - Thursday, February 9, 2012 - link

    This is more of an hypothetical than a real world take on the Apple or Rambus situation. I don't really know enough about either of those suits and the patents involved to have a meaningful dialogue. I'm speaking in generalities here.
  • Belard - Monday, February 13, 2012 - link

    Then why make the previous response?

    RAMBUS is a patent troll. They done minimal research and then screwed everyone.

    Hatchet belongs in rambus dead body.
  • dcollins - Thursday, February 9, 2012 - link

    You're right in concept. The only problem is that patents are granted for far too long. If you invented some awesome technology, you should be the first to bring your product to market, but you do not deserve to own that market forever. Technology patents should expire in at most 5 years, probably 3 years.
  • tayb - Friday, February 10, 2012 - link

    I think it should be 5 years for the patent and then it enters a FRAND-esque state for 4 more years and then it is considered "prior art" and anyone can use it.
  • Penti - Monday, February 13, 2012 - link

    Technology doesn't really work like that, either you supply your research to a standards-body and get some cash as well as some awsome products out or your just out of the game with proprietary tech nobody uses and avoids because they can only turn to one player, one supplier which overchage and has no capacity. Regulation doesn't really need to come into play at all.

    Plenty of tech is used royalty and claims free for years then you get players like Microsoft turning up some 8 years after it's on the market and saying they want money. It won't work in the long run. Ultimately it will turn people away from stuff that aren't clearly licensed by a standards body and it will take forever to change anything.

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