Rambus' cheek knows no bounds

In the latest twist to the huge fights going on in the memory market, Rambus Inc. is now trying to license its DDR RAM interface technology to the very companies it is suing for patent infringement and anti-trust activities.

Double Data Rate RAM is a development of SDRAM technology and transfers data twice as fast. DDR400 currently runs at 400MHz. A faster 533MHz version is coming soon with an even faster 800MHz version following. But it is also the technology behind a glut of severe accusations, lawsuits and official government investigations on both side of the Atlantic.

Computer components that need to access such RAM have to do so through an interface module, typically provided by the memory manufacturers. Rambus has existing interface module technology. By licensing it, memory manufacturers, such as Hynix Semiconductor Inc., Infineon Technologies AG, Micron Technology Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. can save spending their own engineering R&D cash.

So far so straightforward. However, Rambus is claiming that DDR RAM manufacturers use its patented RDRAM technology in their efforts and claims royalty fees from them. Samsung and others have agreed. Hynix, Infineon and Micron have not and Rambus is pursuing its claim through the courts and says it's making progress.

It's also suing these three companies for anti-competitive behavior in a California court. "We believe that these memory manufacturers colluded illegally, thereby limiting consumer choice and depriving our RDRAM products of the opportunity to compete fairly in the marketplace," claimed John Danforth, general counsel for Rambus.

The way Rambus sees it, it gets its money whether through legal fees or licence fees. It appears to be hoping that its legal case is strong enough in prospect that this "stick" will combine with the engineering R&D budget-saving "carrot" and so encourage Hynix, Infineon and others to buy its DDR RAM interface technology.

It's not a tactic that will make the company any friends but as has already been proved conclusively in the memory market, pragmatism appears to overcome many other considerations.

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