WASHINGTON A government antitrust investigation of Rambus Inc.'s involvement in a memory standards group is continuing, a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) spokesman said Tuesday (May 14). But he stopped short of saying the agency was preparing a case against the company.
The comments came in response to a published report Sunday on USA Today's Web site that government investigators were preparing a lawsuit charging Rambus (Los Altos, Calif.) with working with the Joint Electron Device Engineering Council (Jedec) to develop standards for synchronous DRAMs while secretly applying for patent rights.
Rambus was accused of hiding its synchronous DRAM patents from Jedec, the report said.
The FTC probe has been proceeding for about a year. "We can confirm that an investigation exists," the FTC spokesman said. The agency generally declines to discuss details of ongoing probes.
Legal sources said the FTC had earlier wanted to proceed with an antitrust lawsuit against Rambus but has balked. According to one former FTC lawyer, making a case against Rambus has proven difficult because "the facts in the case are somewhat nebulous."
In addition, he said, last year's SDRAM patent infringement trial that pitted Rambus against Infineon Technologies AG failed to address, and therefore clarify, antitrust issues raised by the standards-setting activities.
According to the USA Today report, an FTC lawsuit would seek to prevent Rambus from collecting millions of dollars in royalties on its SDRAM technology and perhaps double-data-rate memory.