THE SLOW WHEELS OF JUSTICE have finally ground to a complete halt in the Federal Trade Commission's case against chip designer Rambus, with the US regulator dropping allegations that the firm violated antitrust laws.
The FTC had been wrestling with Rambus for yonks over claims the firm manipulated the Joint Electron Device Engineering Council (JEDEC) - the body in charge of memory industry standards, not some distant galaxy - to adopt memory technology designs that Rambus was patenting.
According to those claims, Rambus had a penchant for waiting until standards were accepted and adopted by JEDEC before turning around and demanding royalties, suing any companies that refused to pay up.
In 2002, the FTC began an antitrust action, alleging that Rambus had been deceitful by patenting technology on the sly whilst JEDEC was slowly incorporating bits and bobs of it into what would later become DDR SDRAM specifications.
According to the FTC, the industry would probably have used different standards had it known Rambus would milk members for all the patents were worth. Rambus, of course, refuted any suggestion of foul play.
After seven years of bitter legal battles, the US Supreme Court was finally asked to intervene, but decided not to consider the decision made by the District of Columbia Circuit of Appeals, which had thrown the case out in April for lack of evidence. The Supreme Court's decision not to take the case forced the FTC to throw in the towel, and the commission announced on Thursday evening that "further litigation in this matter would not be in the public interest".
With a victory snort, Thomas Lavelle, senior vice president and general counsel at Rambus, declared his firm was "pleased to have finally put this matter behind us", going on to say, "The FTC's decision to drop its remaining JEDEC-related claim against us was the right one."
Now all that remains is for Rambus to put an end to its equally lengthy court cases with Hynix and Samsung over royalty payments before it can crawl back gleefully into its darkened cave, like Gollum, clutching its preciousss patents.
Back in March, Korean memory maker Hynix suffered a blow to its legal campaign when a proposed judgment ordered the firm to pay $379 million to Rambus in royalty fees.
Sheesh, for that amount of money, you'd expect those chips to be nothing short of gourmet. µ
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