MANHASSET, N.Y. A San Francisco court Thursday (Feb. 23) has ordered the evidence in the Rambus antitrust hearings to be turned over to Rambus, in an apparent coup for the chip licensing company’s quest to prove that several chip makers colluded to fix prices and engage in other anti-competitive practices.
Judge Richard Kramer of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco refused to seal evidence, ordering the documents returned to Rambus. He also ruled that Samsung, one of chip makers named in the collusion, must turn over documents related to the investigation.
Rambus Inc. (Los Altos, Calif.) will have ten days to resubmit the evidence in the case, confirmed its legal counsel, John Danforth, in a brief interview with EE Times. Though declining to elaborate on what action Rambus would take, he said that certain evidence in the case “could no longer be seen as confidential”.
The company has been embroiled in numerous lawsuits with leading memory chip suppliers for over half a decade, seeking royalty payments for its chip interface patents. The broadest of these efforts occurred in May 2004, when Rambus filed an anti-trust suit against Hynix Semiconductor, Infineon Technologies, Micron Technology and Siemens AG in the Superior court of the State of California.
The tide appears to be turning in Rambus’ favor. Last November, Samsung admitted it conspired to fix RDRAM prices in 2001 and 2002, in a plea agreement to a U.S. Dept. of Justice antitrust probe. It agreed to pay a $300 million fine.
In connection with the probe, Hynix and Infineon agreed to pay fines while a Micron executive resigned.
Earlier Thursday, an Associated Press report said Rambus’ stock prices soared on the hope that the San Francisco court would rule in favor of the company by ordering release of the documents.
The court decision capped off a tumultuous day for Rambus, which earlier Thursday was hit with another lawsuit by Micron Technology Inc., this one filed in Italy (see story).
Micron had already filed suit against Rambus earlier this week in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in apparent retaliation for a suit by Rambus in January.
Industry observers have rallied on both sides of the Micron-Rambus battle in response to the latest suits. One pro-Rambus observer said, “Micron is scrambling, they’re now throwing stuff against the wall.” Expressing a pro-Micron stance, another remarked in an e-mail, "I hope they (Micron) win their
lawsuits against Rambus. It's encouraging to see that the European
Patent office as revoked their patents, hopefully the U.S. Patent office will follow suit."
Rambus faces another test
March 6, when a California court begins hearing testimony on the Hynix memory patent case.