SAN JOSE, Calif. Rambus Inc. is seeking damages totaling at least $1 billion dollars from DRAM makers that the company alleges have conspired to "sabotage" its memory technology since the mid-1990s, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday (May 5) in California Superior Court.
According to the civil complaint filed in San Francisco, the DRAM makers worked together to boycott Rambus and its memory technology, restrict production and artificially inflate the price of RDRAM chips, promote alternatives to RDRAM and drive Rambus-designed chips out of the computer memory market.
Rambus called these actions illegal and said they deprived it of royalties "which potentially amounts to more than one billion dollars," according to the complaint. Named in the suit were Korean chip maker Hynix Semiconductor, German chip makers Infineon Technologies AG and Siemens AG and U.S. memory maker Micron Technology.
In the complaint, Rambus cited numerous e-mails, meeting notes and other written documents to back up its assertions that the companies had worked together to stifle Rambus technology since 1996.
The complaint went on to cite specific "illegal acts to stop Rambus." These include: restricting production of RDRAM, overstating production costs, breaching production commitments to computer makers Dell and Compaq, inflating the RDRAM prices and shifting resources to competing SDRAM and DDR technologies, the complaint said.
Rambus also said the companies used various industry consortia, such as SynchLink, as a means to obstruct Rambus technology.
According to the complaint, the memory chip makers "believed that they would make more money and retain their entrenched and dominant positions in the computer memory industry if they could prevent Rambus from being successful in launching RDRAM."
The complaint also alleges that the DRAM makers "knew that if they acted independently and engaged in lawful competition they would not be able to thwart the success of RDRAM and Rambus. Accordingly, they instead agreed to work together, through unlawful means, to sabotage RDRAM and Rambus."
In a press release issued Wednesday, Micron said it had not seen the complaint but vowed to fight the lawsuit.
"Micron builds products to meet the demands of its customers," Dave Parker, Micron's director of corporate communications, said in a statement. "Rambus failed in the marketplace because of excessive manufacturing costs and minimal RDRAM demand.Several memory manufacturers, including the world's largest, continue to produce RDRAM products sufficient to meet its limited, worldwide market demand. It is unfortunate that Rambus is trying to blame the market failure of its RDRAM technology on others, like Micron, who ultimately responded to marketplace demands."
Parker added that Rambus "is attempting to deflect attention away from the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) ongoing suit against Rambus for alleged antitrust violations."
Rambus said much of its 36-page complaint contains evidence obtained in the FTC proceeding against Rambus. That antitrust case was dismissed by an FTC administrative law judge in February. The FTC is appealing that ruling.