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Decades-Old Rambus Litigation Against Micron For RDRAM Tech Reaches Settlement

samzenpus posted about 8 months ago | from the now-shake-hands dept.

The Almighty Buck 82

An anonymous reader writes "The decades-old Rambus litigation against Micron for RDRAM tech finally reached a settlement. RDRAM tech has already been licensed by NVidia and Broadcom and has been used in game consoles such as the Nintendo 64. The preliminary deal is to last 7 years and net $280M for Rambus and Micro to gain access to patent licenses defining the technology."

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Now I feel old. (5, Funny)

Naatach (574111) | about 8 months ago | (#45666459)

Can you remember when this started?

Re:Now I feel old. (1)

geminidomino (614729) | about 8 months ago | (#45666467)

If it's "decades old" how the hell is the bogus patent even still valid?

Re:Now I feel old. (4, Informative)

t0qer (230538) | about 8 months ago | (#45666551)

Statute of limitations only applies to when a case can be filed. A trial can go on for years past the statute.

Dead Patents (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45666673)

How can Rambus now 'licence' dead patents? Surely now the company must be wound up and consigned to the trash can of history.

Re:Dead Patents (2)

Desler (1608317) | about 8 months ago | (#45666685)

Because they still have the pay the judgement of the case.

Re:Dead Patents (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 8 months ago | (#45668273)

How can Rambus now 'licence' dead patents? Surely now the company must be wound up and consigned to the trash can of history.

Actually, it is in trouble these days - neither the PS4 nor the Xbone use RDRAM anymore. Before that, Rambus made a ton of money for RDRAM inside the PS2 (the best selling console in the world, period) and XDR-DRAM in the PS3.

But now the PS4 uses GDDR5, and the Xbone uses regular DDR3.

Re:Now I feel old. (3, Informative)

icebike (68054) | about 8 months ago | (#45666559)

Exactly,

Join a consortium to develop a standard, sneak out at a quarter to four and patent the whole thing behind everyone's back and start throwing sue balls at everyone. They never had an original idea, or a working product.

Re:Now I feel old. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45666681)

They never had ... a working product.

Really? So then how exactly was Intel bundling Rambus' RAM with Pentium 4s? How exactly did Dell sell Rambus RAM? Strange that both of these companies were shipping what you claim was not a working product.

Re:Now I feel old. (2)

icebike (68054) | about 8 months ago | (#45666735)

They forced them to license the name and put it on those products. Rambus never manufactured anything.

Re:Now I feel old. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45666763)

They forced them to license the name and put it on those products.

How exactly was either Dell or Intel "forced" to license RDRAM and ship it?

Rambus never manufactured anything.

Nice goalpost shifting.

Re:Now I feel old. (2)

khallow (566160) | about 8 months ago | (#45666945)

Recall the original claim?

They never had ... a working product.

And the most recent observation

They forced them to license the name and put it on those products.

Would be quite consistent with the original statement. Just because Rambus's logo is on a product doesn't mean it is a Rambus product. There is no shifting of goalposts here.

Re:Now I feel old. (4, Insightful)

bhcompy (1877290) | about 8 months ago | (#45667089)

Let's talk about goalposts, then. What you're saying is that the NFL doesn't have a product because the products are the teams that are NFL licensed franchises and the NFL itself is just a logo without a product. I don't think the billions being paid to the NFL support that statement. Products don't have to be tangible to be products. A product can simply be a license to a design. A better statement would be that Rambus never manufactured the product(then again, many hardware companies pay other companies to manufacture their products)

Re:Now I feel old. (2)

khallow (566160) | about 8 months ago | (#45667165)

What you're saying is that the NFL doesn't have a product because the products are the teams that are NFL licensed franchises and the NFL itself is just a logo without a product.

Yes. Licensing is not a product. Actual products would be the providing of refereeing officials for games and the establishing of a common body of rules for the game (including out of game stuff like the treatment of visiting teams, media, and spectators).

A product can simply be a license to a design.

A design that Rambus didn't actually have a part in aside from owning blocking patents.

Re:Now I feel old. (1)

Vitriol+Angst (458300) | about 8 months ago | (#45670057)

I think that this analogy is like explaining the birds and the bees with actual birds and bees. It's like pea soup as an analogy for patents -- strained. So the lawsuit is like a 10 yard penalty, illegal use of the hands -- but they actually gain the yardage in a game 12 years later?

I also think that RAMBUS is a horrible name for a football team.

Re:Now I feel old. (2)

ArbitraryName (3391191) | about 8 months ago | (#45666745)

Rambus never manufactured or sold RAM. They licensed patents that allowed third parties like Intel to make it.

Re:Now I feel old. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45666771)

Which is not the same as "not having a working product". There clearly was a working product since others were able to manufacture RDRAM.

Re:Now I feel old. (3, Informative)

radarskiy (2874255) | about 8 months ago | (#45667071)

You are assuming that the final manufactured product actually matched the Rambus design, rather than being a different design that just happened to be patent encumbered.

I only have hearsay from people that worked on this stuff, but it all agrees on the fact that Rambus did not have a working design.

Re:Now I feel old. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45670431)

No this is like saying a bunch of companies that make locks use tumblers in their locks. Then another company decides to patent tumblers that everyone used as a standard and said that because everyone else used the same standard for tumblers that they patented after the fact, that all locks should now be called by the companies name and you have to pay to use the same technology you always made and in fact you created, because it was the obvious way to do it. so now everyone is forced to create locks without tumblers.

Re:Now I feel old. (4, Insightful)

saleenS281 (859657) | about 8 months ago | (#45667049)

They absolutely had both an original idea and a working product. Just because they didn't have manufacturing facilities doesn't mean they didn't produce a product. Does AMD not have a working product because they spun-out and sold-off Global Foundries? Does Sony not have a product because they use AMD CPUs? RDRAM was absolutely rambus's product, that was never up for debate. What was up for debate was whether DDR memory infringed on their patents - it did, and they won just about all of their lawsuits.

Re:Now I feel old. (2)

wiredlogic (135348) | about 8 months ago | (#45667943)

RDRAM itself is an original idea. Synchronous memory and double clocking were not. Rambus acted in bad faith by participating in the JEDEC process to standardize SDRAM and then backing out to create patents on technologies they learned about from that participation that would be applicable to emerging JEDEC standards. For that they deserve to wither into bankruptcy. I'll never design their devices into a product.

Re:Now I feel old. (1)

Wootery (1087023) | about 8 months ago | (#45669593)

Didn't they think of that when they were planning the standardisation process? This stuff clearly wasn't public knowledge (or it would be prior art re. patents), so surely they knew this was a risk...

Re:Now I feel old. (4, Insightful)

saleenS281 (859657) | about 8 months ago | (#45667063)

First off, it wasn't bogus - which is why micron lost. I'm no lover of RAMBUS but they absolutely had valid patents, and they did sell product. They lost the battle because their product was ultimately inferior and more expensive, but that doesn't change the fact the core technology behind DDR memory infringed on their ideas. As for how it's still valid - it doesn't matter. If you infringe a patent, get sued, and the patent runs out before the court case finishes, you aren't magically exonerated from all the years you infringed on the patent while in court. Doesn't work that way champ.

Re:Now I feel old. (1)

geminidomino (614729) | about 8 months ago | (#45667183)

I was referring to the implication that they were still licensing the patent. I get now that it basically meant retroactively.

As for why it's bogus, I thought we all new the story. They snaked the patents out from under the development group. Probably legal, still a scumbag move.

Re:Now I feel old. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45667333)

It was bogus because it was a patent.

Re:Now I feel old. (4, Informative)

Solandri (704621) | about 8 months ago | (#45667761)

First off, it wasn't bogus - which is why micron lost. I'm no lover of RAMBUS but they absolutely had valid patents, and they did sell product. They lost the battle because their product was ultimately inferior and more expensive, but that doesn't change the fact the core technology behind DDR memory infringed on their ideas.

You're badly misunderstanding people's gripe with this whole thing. Of course the patents were valid. The whole point of the consortium was to come up with a non-patented standard, so when Rambus went behind everyone's back and patented the whole shebang of course there was no prior art. The other memory makers had gone out of their way not to patent it.

And FYI, JEDEC won against Rambus in their lawsuit - Rambus was guilty of patenting stuff which was being discussed in secret at JEDEC. The problem was Rambus was only guilty of violating the terms of membership for JEDEC. The lawyers who drafted the membership agreement neglected to put in any penalties for patenting stuff behind everyone else's back, and as a result the only recourse JEDEC had was to kick Rambus out. There were no federal or criminal charges because they didn't break government law, they broke JEDEC's rules. The patents were still valid though, even though Rambus effectively stole them, because the there was no prior art and the USPTO decided it was patent-worthy.

Speaking of which, do you really think DDR is worthy of a patent? Counting a clock tick not just when the voltage goes up, but also when the voltage goes down? That should be obvious to a 5-year old.

Re:Now I feel old. (1)

saleenS281 (859657) | about 8 months ago | (#45667889)

Why was there "no prior art" if Rambus simply took the JEDEC committee's ideas and created patenst? There should be VOLUMES of prior art from the JEDEC meeting minutes to people's scribbles in their notepads. You're seriously telling me that Rambus was the only company attending the meetings to take notes? And they managed to get their patents ramrodded through before anyone on the JEDEC committee decided to take their first note? Ya, no.

What Rambus did (and lost in court on) was create additional patents beyond the technology they already had to try to stonewall the JEDEC members. THAT is what they lost in court on. The JEDEC members STILL licensed technology from Rambus because they had legitimate patents. They were simply hoping that when Rambus joined the committee, they would donate those patents to the group. As for DDR being patented, if it's so obvious why wasn't there prior art again?

Re:Now I feel old. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45668451)

Why was there "no prior art" if Rambus simply took the JEDEC committee's ideas and created patenst?

The parent isn't quite correct- at the point in time this happened the patent rules were "first to file", prior art didn't really invalidate it in a lot of cases. (That's a rather simplistic way of putting it, but I don't feel like taking several pages of text to make it more precise.)

Re:Now I feel old. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45670835)

Exactly. And there were rules -- which have been slacked somewhat in the interim -- about what could constitute prior art.

Typically, it had to be a publicly available publication, or a few other slim categories. A scientists notebooks still would not count; things like that are only allowable to prove things like continued effort between the invention idea and the reduction to practice. And now that we're on a first-to-file instead of first-to-invent basis, even that will be phased out entirely.

Re:Now I feel old. (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 8 months ago | (#45671417)

Why was there "no prior art" if Rambus simply took the JEDEC committee's ideas and created patenst? There should be VOLUMES of prior art from the JEDEC meeting minutes to people's scribbles in their notepads. You're seriously telling me that Rambus was the only company attending the meetings to take notes? And they managed to get their patents ramrodded through before anyone on the JEDEC committee decided to take their first note? Ya, no.

No, what happened is Rambus has the patents already applied for. They then influenced the standards committee to use the patented items without telling them of the patent applications.

It's not a case of Rambus patenting what was discussed in secret. It's a case of Rambus intentionally steering towards the use of patented things without notifying them (per requirements of the committee) of that pending patent application.

And that's where the "wrongness" comes in - Rambus knew that they were intentionally deceiving the standards committee into using patented technology that they did not disclose.

Standards committees using patents are fine. It's when the participants intentionally mislead the committee into choosing technology that's patented without disclosing the fact that gets everyone twisted up.

Re:Now I feel old. (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 8 months ago | (#45678001)

Rambus knew that they were intentionally deceiving the standards committee into using patented technology that they did not disclose.

How is Rambus not liable for fraud [wikipedia.org] in this case? Surely there must be more complexity to it?

Micron didn't lose (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45669641)

They didn't lose, they settled.

Re:Now I feel old. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45670083)

Rambus memory was not an "inferior product" but it was ahead of it's time. Intel was on board and wanted all memory to be like this. The memory manufacturers wanted control and conspired to fix prices and put Rambus out of business. However if it was inferior then the Sony PS 2 would not have been the best selling gaming platform that it was. And the JEDEC memory would not have adapted the patented improvements in DDR, DDR2 DDR3 etc. etc. And we wouldnt be having this conversation. Rambus did not invent differential signalling but they applied it to memory busses for the first time.

Re:Now I feel old. (1)

unixisc (2429386) | about 8 months ago | (#45670941)

RAMBUS was about as superior to SDRAM as VLIW was to RISC. Both technologies that Intel endorsed at the time, but was forced to back out of later.

Re:Now I feel old. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45666507)

heh, barely! Oddly enough I think it was /. that I read about it first as well :)

Re:Now I feel old. (4, Informative)

icebike (68054) | about 8 months ago | (#45666611)

The Rambus debacle actually pre-dates Slashdot.
The patent cat fight started in 1990, and slashdot started in 1997. It was old news by the time it was first mentioned on Slashdot.

Re:Now I feel old. (3, Informative)

Ralph Wiggam (22354) | about 8 months ago | (#45666699)

This particular debacle started in 1990. In 2000, Rambus filed lawsuits against every memory manufacturer in a much larger debacle. That's the debacle that dominated Slashdot for months and contributed to a huge influx of users.

Re:Now I feel old. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45670149)

It was old news by the time it was first mentioned on Slashdot.

Then again so is everything else mentioned on Slashdot.

Re:Now I feel old. (1)

ArbitraryName (3391191) | about 8 months ago | (#45666553)

Yes, it was in 2000. Rambus has only existed since 1990 and they didn't start suing people until 2000. Unless you're a teenager I don't see how you couldn't.

Re:Now I feel old. (1)

icebike (68054) | about 8 months ago | (#45666687)

Had you clicked the link in the summary you would have seen this as the second sentence:

The two have been mired in litigation since 1990, which is when Rambus first sought license fees and threatened infringement lawsuits against memory makers who turned to the popular SDRAM standard over its own.

Rambus started suing immediately after they formed the company.

Re:Now I feel old. (3, Informative)

ArbitraryName (3391191) | about 8 months ago | (#45666853)

I read the article. The article is wrong. I was around when they started suing, as your UID shows you should have been. Here is a contemporary article in EE Times [eetimes.com] about the first lawsuit in 2000, against Hitachi. The article's wording makes it clear that this is the first lawsuit. This was big news on Slashdot in 2000, where an article from 2000 [slashdot.org] whose wording (and comments) also make it obvious that the lawsuits had just begun. Here is a slightly earlier Slashdot article [slashdot.org] about Samsng and Rambus whose comments also make it obvious that no lawsuits had begun yet.

Re:Now I feel old. (1)

Ecuador (740021) | about 8 months ago | (#45666569)

I remember Intel trying to stuff some stupidly expensive, high latency RD-RAM down our throats around '99-2000 in some sort of deal with Rambus (a company probably even more unethical than Intel) where they both would win and consumers... not so much...
Anyway, depending on how you see it, "decades old' is either an exaggeration, or a very appropriate statement, in line with the usual factual and to-the-point slashdot summaries.

Re:Now I feel old. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45666741)

Well, there was probably one or two optimizations in RD-RAM that seemed meaningful over "regular" RAM at the time (probably had to do with timing and read/write operations, though- didn't RD-RAM read on both up-tick and down-tick of clock cycles, or something like that?), and Intel thought it'd really make the Pentium 4 a powerhouse system. Except Intel really overreached with the P4 (and Itanium was developed around then too, right?), and forgot the most important part about RAM, that being the "Random Access" bit.

RD-RAM could feed data onto the bus serially rather fast, once it found it, but really sucked at latency with random access reads/writes. But that fast, high-latency streaming seemed to work well for P4's rather deep instruction pipelines too on some benchmarks, when it was in the sweet spots for them together (P4 resolving a deep instruction pipeline while RD-RAM retrieved memory and started pumping data onto the CPU bus, which was then ready to start reading it).

Meanwhile, it became evident that multi-core CPUs provided a much more responsive system than the high clock rate P4 systems, even if those cores were running at less than half the clock rate of the P4, and it seemed like the P4 should have kicked ass over other systems.

But then those stupid P3 hackers in Israel made a couple of improvements in the P3 core (my dual processor 833 MHz P3 box was far more usable than a 2GHz P4 with gobs of RD-RAM at the time), which begat the Core, Core 2 and Core 2 Duo processors, and the P4 just quietly faded away as the P3 technology got to move on.

So, in IT, every once in awhile the right idea/implementation wins out over someone's over-hyped/over-sold pet project...

Re:Now I feel old. (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 8 months ago | (#45666965)

You missed a step in the P3 -> Core, which was the Pentium M. Intel was pretty much forced to build it, because power hungry P4's sucked in laptops.

Re:Now I feel old. (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | about 8 months ago | (#45675225)

You missed a step in the P3 -> Core, which was the Pentium M. Intel was pretty much forced to build it, because power hungry P4's sucked in laptops.

I remember at the time (mid-2000s?) *before* the original Core line came out, at least one article in Personal Computer World magazine extolled the virtues of the Pentium M. They quite seriously suggested it was worth considering for use in a desktop system. (IIRC, there were desktop motherboards that supported the Pentium M, the only issue was that you had to take more care with the heatsink and cooling than you would with a Pentium 4- or something like that).

Re:Now I feel old. (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 8 months ago | (#45684827)

I'm writing this on a laptop with a 1.6GHz Pentium M CPU. Speed wise, its about equivalent to a P4 2.4GHz, most due to (I think) a shorter pipeline and 2MB of full speed cache.

It still works pretty well. Struggles a bit now with high bitrate h264 though.
Not bad for a laptop from 2004.

Re:Now I feel old. (1)

epine (68316) | about 8 months ago | (#45667173)

Getting "gobs" of RD-RAM involved fat modules.

Aside from muck-raking HP, The Register also did a lot to raise public awareness of problems with Intel in the P4 era.

Caminogate failure finally explained [theregister.co.uk]

RD-RAM was supposed to support three slots, but they couldn't make it work. It was one fiasco after another.

Mercifully, we got AMD64 out of the deal and a healthy competitor until Intel's Israeli team kicked out the CoreDuo.

Intel subsequently played the UEFI card, but it's a dim echo of their original agenda.

Re:Now I feel old. (1)

MachineShedFred (621896) | about 8 months ago | (#45669297)

You also forget that the adoption of Pentium 4 didn't actually take off until the release of the Intel i845 chipset, which allowed the usage of good ol' DDR SDRAM. With that, a P4-based system didn't cost in excess of $1800.

RDRAM was an albatross around Pentium 4's neck except in very few usage scenarios. You're right though - the super deep pipelines that only existed to ramp the clock rate sky high meant that a whole lot of clock was wasted on branch prediction failures. The so-called NetBurst architecture was a complete failure, and the design team in Israel saved Intel from complete disaster with Pentium-M based on the P3 core.

Re:Now I feel old. (2)

Ralph Wiggam (22354) | about 8 months ago | (#45666649)

I remember back in 2000 when Rambus was the most hated company on Slashdot. Everyone hated Microsoft, but at least acknowledged that they were producing products. Rambus was just a dirty parasite.

Re: Now I feel old. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45666731)

yes i can. i remembber everthing about it. I till own an old archive server with 768 MB ram that I fire up from time to time I'll be damned if i'm gonna listen to another thread of blowhards that don't know shit from shinola.

Re:Now I feel old. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45667023)

>Can you remember when this started?

Well, maybe. I remember the $500 USD I spent on four 128-meg Rambus chips back when Warcraft 3 had just hit shelves. Friend of mine built an AMD a year later with this newfangled stuff called DDR. 2 gigs, for about half the price.

Here's what I think: Rambus made a fairly robust (at least in my case) product, and then gouged the hell out of the price. I definitely didn't need to pay that amount a short time later for similar specs. But this is something that's happened a number of times in most anyone's life, and you learn to let go.

Re:Now I feel old. (1)

kelarius (947816) | about 8 months ago | (#45669799)

I keep reading posts on here talking about how god damned expensive RD-RAM was in the early 2000s and I just don't seem to remember it ALWAYS being that expensive, especially in summer '02. The first computer I ever built for myself using my high school grad money cost me $800, had a 2GHz P4 Northwood, and 512MB PC800 RD-RAM (in 2x256MB config no less), and I can even remember the RAM not being the most expensive part of that build (that was the CPU and the $150 graphics card I put in there). Now maybe I just happened to find a fantastic deal, or maybe some people arent remembering correctly, and yes, I do remember the price of RD-RAM tripling not a year later, but it wasn't always so bad. I always attributed the price increase to a drop off in production to absolutely nothing as everyone jumped off of the P4/RD-RAM ship. Best part is that that computer is still chugging away nicely at my Dad's house, still using the original motherboard, CPU, and those same 256MB RD-RAM sticks.

Re:Now I feel old. (1)

bored (40072) | about 8 months ago | (#45673475)

I keep reading posts on here talking about how god damned expensive RD-RAM was in the early 2000s and I just don't seem to remember it ALWAYS being that expensive, especially in summer '02

The price of RD-RAM came in line with DDR once the P4 got a chipset that could support DDR (which was after the athlon, which was already laying down the smack). Which of course pointed at the underlying agenda... Locking up who could manufacture the technology so the profit margins could be controlled. (see socket 8 licensing fiasco, itanium, etc)

IIRC the price of rambus memory literally halved in a month or two. Plus, people started talking about the latency issues, and the power consumption. By middle of 02, IIRC the price difference was basically non existent, and everyone was looking forward to DDR2.

Re:Now I feel old. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45668077)

I thought these crooks went out of business years ago.

Re:Now I feel old. (1)

KlomDark (6370) | about 8 months ago | (#45668093)

I remember this from way too long ago. I figured it had wrapped up years ago. Was surprised to see it's just now reaching settlement. This was even before OJ's low-speed chase...

Hot Grits Indeed! (2, Insightful)

rueger (210566) | about 8 months ago | (#45666531)

Wow. I can remember the days when this was a meme that all of the cool kids tossed out while laughing with derision!

Re:Hot Grits Indeed! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45667497)

Wow dude. You must have pissed in someone's Hot Grits cause you already got an OT mod for a rather benign comment. I thought the whole point of this article was for all the 6 digits and under to talk about dem good ol days. I thought wrong.

Re:Hot Grits Indeed! (1)

KlomDark (6370) | about 8 months ago | (#45668099)

Six digits? What a bunch of n00bs... ;0

Re:Hot Grits Indeed! (1)

Mr Z (6791) | about 8 months ago | (#45670185)

Kids these days!

Now where's that naked, petrified Natalie Portman with the goatse link?

This is horrible news (5, Informative)

RelliK (4466) | about 8 months ago | (#45666583)

This is absolutely disgusting. Rambus is the ultimate patent troll. For those not familiar, here is some history.

Back in the 90's, Rambus became a member of JEDEC, an industry consortium of RAM manufacturers. JEDEC rules require members to disclose any patents that are relevant to the technology being discussed. Rambus didn't. It sat in on the meetings, listened, and modified its pending patent applications to cover DDR RAM. After the new RAM standard was adopted, Rambus surfaced its submarine patents and started suing everyone left and right.

Add to that the fact is that Rambus itself does not manufacture anything -- it's a technology licencing house that has a few engineers and an army of lawyers -- and you get a perfect example of a patent troll.

Re:This is horrible news (1)

Soporific (595477) | about 8 months ago | (#45666651)

Why wouldn't the companies being sued use that information in their defense then? Or rather, why didn't it work?

~S

Re:This is horrible news (1)

Ralph Wiggam (22354) | about 8 months ago | (#45666727)

The other companies won a few rounds of the lawsuits based on that, and I want to say Rambus was actually found to have committed fraud at one point. But Rambus won enough rounds of lawsuits to keep bringing in money.

Re:This is horrible news (5, Informative)

RelliK (4466) | about 8 months ago | (#45666813)

Because US patent system effectively legalizes extortion. Some manufacturers rolled over and paid "licencing", but others, like Infineon decided to fight. The jury in Infineon v. Rambus ruled in favor of Infineon, but then Rambus appealed to the federal circuit and got that decision overturned. PJ, of groklaw fame, put it thusly: "federal circuit has never seen a patent it didn't like".

This is just a short summary, you can find more info if you like. Rambus extorted money from pretty much everyone who has so much as touched RAM.

Re:This is horrible news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45674661)

At which point the question is, when will one of Congress or the Supreme Court knock the Federal Circuit Court down several notches? It has been noted that the Supreme Court should be noticing how often the circuit court has been getting successfully appealed...

Re:This is horrible news (1)

radarskiy (2874255) | about 8 months ago | (#45667045)

a) The patents were originally filed before Rambus joined JEDEC.
b) The patents were amended after Rambus left JEDEC.

Re:This is horrible news (1)

jonwil (467024) | about 8 months ago | (#45667127)

This is exactly why the patent system needs to change to make it impossible to amend patents after they have been filed.

Re:This is horrible news (1)

MachineShedFred (621896) | about 8 months ago | (#45669311)

a) The patents were originally filed before Rambus joined JEDEC.
b) The patents were amended after Rambus left JEDEC.

s/left/was kicked out of/

Re:This is horrible news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45666739)

But didn't they manufacture ram at that time? I agree they're heavy on the IP "trolling" but did they not actually manufacture and sell their own chips?

Because I'm fairly sure I still own some that says that.

Re:This is horrible news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45666921)

that is someone else putting a label on RAM after rolling over and agreeing to rambus

Re:This is horrible news (2)

ArbitraryName (3391191) | about 8 months ago | (#45667073)

They did not manufacture RAM at any point in time. What you have was made by a licensee [rambus.com] .

Re:This is horrible news (5, Insightful)

Pinhedd (1661735) | about 8 months ago | (#45667143)

Add to that the fact is that Rambus itself does not manufacture anything -- it's a technology licencing house that has a few engineers and an army of lawyers -- and you get a perfect example of a patent troll.

ARM Holdings PLC is an R&D company that doesn't manufacture anything. They generate all of their revenue through licencing IP to third parties whom in turn do the manufacturing. I do not see anyone calling them a patent troll.

Rambus Inc. is definitely a shady corporation but simply failing to manufacture products with IP that one owns and initiating litigation against those who infringe upon it does not automatically make one a patent troll.

Re:This is horrible news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45667367)

That's because nobody is making a ARM-compatible CPU and not paying licensing fees for it. (Maybe it's reasonable whodathunkit.)

Rambus on the other hand pulled a lot of shady crap, one of which basically sunk the Pentium 4 architecture which it had been designed with Rambus in mind. Those i820 chipsets paired with memory translator hubs, were a thorn in my side during that time. Every single one of those products failed.

You must remember that a patent troll is only a patent troll if they both "produce nothing" and "engage in patenting obvious if not widely used concepts that would otherwise prevent all possible use of the technology", ARM doesn't do the latter. Unisys and the LZW patent resulted in the PNG format (which was badly needed anyway.) This is why patents involving standards (JDEC DDR, MPEG-2, MPEG-1 layer 3(aka mp3), H.264, CDMA/UMTS/LTE) are considered trolling. This is why we still don't have good Text-to-speech or Speech controlled computers, because the patents on both synthetic voices and speech recognizing prevent practical use of the technology. Likewise with Wacom's patents on battery-less digitizers. Also Nintendo had patents on the + shaped D pad used on the NES.These parents only prevent use of that technology, but don't preclude using other methods of input. Imagine if there were submarine patents on mice every time a new button was added to one. There is a reason why every game controller made after the SNES has it's buttons where they are, because that is the best practical design. Imagine if there were patents prevented having more than 2 buttons on a joystick.

Re:This is horrible news (2)

Pinhedd (1661735) | about 8 months ago | (#45668351)

The ARM microarchitecture is hardly complex. It's very simple, employing only minor variations on technology that predates it by decades. Most computer engineers would call the bulk of the ARMv7 microarchitecture and other ARM IP obvious to one skilled in the trade. In fact, almost all straight RISC microprocessors follow a very similar architecture. ARM Holdings, despite manufacturing nothing, has wielded their patent portfolio offensively against companies and even bought a large stake in a consortium that acquired MIPS patents that ARM most likely infringed upon. What ARM has done very well is package it all together in a very verbose and detailed IP portfolio that can be instantiated, simulated, and fabricated with ease by licencors. I imagine that many of their patents could be challenged successfully, but no one has any motivation to do so.

You will not get any argument from me about Rambus being a patent troll, but it's important to remember that while usefulness is a requirement for patentability, marketability is not.

Re:This is horrible news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45667911)

The distinction is that Rambus basically trojan-horsed their way into an official industry standard, then said "surprise, we own all the patents!"

Re:This is horrible news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45667979)

ARM licenses an the ARM instruction set architecture and their CPUs. You can do all this in software and even validate it in software.

You cannot do the same with RAM. We don't have a quantum computer to model whether a RAM design will work.

Re:This is horrible news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45669655)

"They generate all of their revenue through licencing IP"

Of technology that they actually develop themselves, as opposed to essentially stealing other people's ideas.

Re:This is horrible news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45674827)

Rambus employed hundreds of engineers around 2005, when I had dealings with them.
They researched and developed intellectual property, which was then sold to customers. A lot like what hundreds of companies did and still do. ARM for instance.

Ok, maybe the lawyer to engineer ratio at Rambus was greater than 1. Which is bad.

- AC

Speed is not patented (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 8 months ago | (#45667197)

The same judge also ruled that the wheel "appears to have prior art, per Babylonians." Romans gotta pay up.

Why don't patent trolls just get exectued? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45667361)

You'd think for the amount of money they steal someone would just shoot them in the head or hire someone to do it.

Re:Why don't patent trolls just get exectued? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45667375)

executed. god damn it. just kill them all and we can stop hearing about fucking patent trolls in the news every week.

Consider it a test you only have to pass once. (3)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 8 months ago | (#45667997)

You'd think for the amount of money they steal someone would just shoot them in the head or hire someone to do it.

With what?! Ballistic weapons? Oh, that's rich! Consider that if any aliens exist there's at least a 50% chance they're more advanced than humans. If the aliens can manage interstellar space travel then they've already mastered the warp drive. [nasa.gov] Imagine all the technology they must have. You think they'd care about being threatened with micrometeors? Ooh, how terrifying!

One answer to the Fermi Paradox could be that the aliens can't visit you because they'll invalidate every damn patent on Earth with their prior art and destabilize the world economy humans built upon laws that create artificial scarcity of information and ideas. If only humans could extract their craniums from their rectums and stop treating infinitely reproducible information and knowledge as if they are physical things... Until human laws agree with the basic Universal truth that symbolic configurations of matter and energy are not matter and energy themselves, the Drake equation will never be solved.

Think about it. Economics 101 says that as supply tends towards infinity, price tends towards zero regardless of demand or cost to create. The elements that make up sand and water were forged in a huge expensive furnace: A 1-A supernova, yet sand is cheap, you just pay for hauling it, not the sand itself. You wouldn't sell Ice to Eskimos, as the locals say, but selling infinitely reproducible information to humans possessing "sentient" brains and digital information replicators is acceptable? The world economy of ideas and information can't even grok economics 101. It's the work to create new configurations that's scarce, not the 1's and 0's or ideas. You have no evidence that patents and copyright are beneficial -- Not a single one of you tested that damn hypothesis!

The Patent Trolls are what you pre-information-scarcity races deserve. Why, I wouldn't be surprised if the "trolls" weren't actually aliens risking violation of the prime directive just to try and help you humans out by demonstrating exactly how insane your current patent and copyright system is. Imagine yourself in their shoes! Imagine that you risked being re-assigned as an overseer of primordial ooze for the next billion years just to directly tell the humans via world wide neural network of their folly, and they STILL didn't get it?! Imagine how you would feel if you went through the trouble to do all that, and the Humans STILL sided with the moronic laws?! If you travelled 23 light millennia just to stop in for a spot of tea and solve every problem human science will face for the next few centuries, but you discovered the "Best and Brightest" humans embracing an economy that's incompatible with the nature of information and is based on Untested Hypotheses would YOU trust them with a Warp Drive?! I wouldn't!

Re:Consider it a test you only have to pass once. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45668521)

What strain of weed are you smoking?

Re:Consider it a test you only have to pass once. (2)

brantondaveperson (1023687) | about 8 months ago | (#45668679)

Why, I wouldn't be surprised if the "trolls" weren't actually aliens risking violation of the prime directive just to try and help you humans out by demonstrating exactly how insane your current patent and copyright system is.

Really? Because I'd be fucking astonished.

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