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Rambus Wins Patent Case

Zonk posted about 6 years ago | from the this-is-what-you'd-call-an-akbar-level-trap dept.

Patents 146

Blowfishie writes "Rambus has won a major case they've been fighting since the late 90's. Rambus worked its technology into the standards for SDRAM and DDR data transfer, then waited for the major players (Hynix, Micron and Nanya) to be heavily committed before revealing that it had patents on the technology. 'At issue is whether the developer of a speedy new memory technology deserved to be paid for its inventions, or whether the company misled memory chip makers. "I think they (the jurors) misapprehended what the standards-setting organizations are about and the absolute need for good faith," said Jared Bobrow, an outside attorney for Micron. Wednesday's verdict comes after a judgment against Hynix in 2006 that resulted in a $133 million award to Rambus, Lavelle said, and potentially clears the way for Rambus to collect on that verdict.'"

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April Fool's Day... (5, Funny)

TFer_Atvar (857303) | about 6 years ago | (#22928282)

... oh, you're serious.

Re:April Fool's Day... (1)

nametaken (610866) | about 6 years ago | (#22928302)

It's like a reverse April Fools prank, I was sure it was a prank but apparently it wasn't.

Re:April Fool's Day... (1)

burner (8666) | about 6 years ago | (#22928310)

Maybe the joke is that it's last week's news... I heard this one on the radio and the article is dated 3/26.

Re:April Fool's Day... (2, Interesting)

dgatwood (11270) | about 6 years ago | (#22928378)

If I were working for one of those companies, the first thing I'd do is declare bankruptcy. If all of the three manufacturers being sued all declared bankruptcy, the industry would plunge into chaos and the legislature would suddenly be getting tens of thousands of phone calls from everybody from Dell to Apple calling for patent reform, a huge government bailout, and a law invalidating Rambus's patents.

As for me, I will never, as long as I live, purchase any product manufactured by Rambus or any of its subsidiaries, and as soon as the dust settles and the industry has time to move to a Rambus-patent-free memory technology, that permanent blacklisting will be expanded to any products that license any technology from Rambus or any of its subsidiaries. I strongly urge everyone else on Slashdot to do the same. Let's send a message with our pocketbooks that we will not tolerate patent extortion from a technology manufacturer. Let's drive Rambus out of business with the largest boycott of a company's products in the history of the planet. All it would take would be the wrath of geeks burying a single company to ensure that other companies think twice before adopting such sleazy, deplorable tactics.

Re:April Fool's Day... (1)

leenks (906881) | about 6 years ago | (#22928684)


Re:April Fool's Day... (1)

electrictroy (912290) | about 6 years ago | (#22929596)

It's possible to quit.

It can be done.

I haven't bought any new RAM since 2002 (512 megabyte upgrade). It was hard but I feel proud of myself for staying strong & avoiding the temptation. Over two-thousand "junk free" days. Woot! As long as I "just say no" to my pimp, Mr Gates, I should be okay, but if I buy his Vista crak then I'll have no choice. I'll have to buy more RAM. :-(

Stay strong brother.

Re:April Fool's Day... (1)

smitty_one_each (243267) | about 6 years ago | (#22929802)

There are workarounds for people like you.
If you won't buy directly, then industry will partner with government and raise your taxes to buy the RAM.
IOW, you can get the RAM up front, or from the rear.
This is the ugly side-effect of centralized power.

Re:April Fool's Day... (4, Informative)

qwert12345 (1265540) | about 6 years ago | (#22928724)

dgatwood, your joke is the *utmost* one I found today:

"I will never, as long as I live, purchase any product manufactured by Rambus or any of its subsidiaries" You won't because Rambus doesn't produce products that are sold on the market --- they do not produce.

"as soon as the dust settles and the industry has time to move to a Rambus-patent-free memory technology" The industry has been moving towards a Rambus-patent-heavier status, since SDRAM, DDR, DDR2 and DDR3. I hope given more time they will move even faster.

"that permanent blacklisting will be expanded to any products that license any technology from Rambus or any of its subsidiaries." You better giving up owning any product that uses DRAM legally and buying those product that infringing, given the outcome of the recent lawsuit --- really a nerd.

"I strongly urge everyone else on Slashdot to do the same." Doing what? sitting here LMAO about your posts?

Re:April Fool's Day... (3, Informative)

nguy (1207026) | about 6 years ago | (#22928946)

If I were working for one of those companies, the first thing I'd do is declare bankruptcy.

You can't declare bankruptcy unless you're actually bankrupt.

As for me, I will never, as long as I live, purchase any product manufactured by Rambus or any of its subsidiaries,

You won't, since Rambus is just a patent troll company; they don't make products.

All it would take would be the wrath of geeks burying a single company to ensure that other companies think twice before adopting such sleazy, deplorable tactics.

Well, if you figure out how to destroy Rambus as a business, lots of people would like to know. Unfortunately, that's easier said than done.

Re:April Fool's Day... (1)

gayak (745124) | about 6 years ago | (#22929874)

[quote]You won't, since Rambus is just a patent troll company; they don't make products.[/quote] Well, it's not that simple. Rambus actually has lots of research, not just patent trolling, and they do design the products, even if they don't manufacture them themselves. If your definition of 'patent troll company' is purely every-IP company, then you can pretty soon count even AMD as patent troll company. To me at least, patent troll companies try to get money by just suing companies, instead of actually creating some new technology, which Rambus has done. Or have you forgotten products like PS3, which use RDRAM?

Re:April Fool's Day... (1)

nguy (1207026) | about 6 years ago | (#22929950)

If your definition of 'patent troll company' is purely every-IP company,

No, it isn't "every IP company", it's every IP company that abuses the patent system, which Rambus appears to have done.

instead of actually creating some new technology, which Rambus has done. Or have you forgotten products like PS3, which use RDRAM?

RDRAM was a failure, both commercially and in terms of performance.

Sorry, I don't see any ground breaking innovation from Rambus, just tinkering with fairly straightforward design tradeoffs, patenting, marketing, and lawyering.

Re:April Fool's Day... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22929968)

Patent trolls can do research. The first type of patent abusing company I ever heard of just did enough research to try and predict were an industry was obviously headed, then patent everything in sight that direction.

Re:April Fool's Day... (1)

AioKits (1235070) | about 6 years ago | (#22930196)

You can't declare bankruptcy unless you're actually bankrupt.

I have a plan for this too! I will just be a 'consultant' for them for 1 million dollars an hour. It's so easy it should work! Now, what should I be consulting them on?

Re:April Fool's Day... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22929014)

Lets start with a boycott of Microsoft first ...

Re:April Fool's Day... (1)

canuck57 (662392) | about 6 years ago | (#22929812)

As for me, I will never, as long as I live, purchase any product manufactured by Rambus or any of its subsidiaries, and as soon as the dust settles and the industry has time to move to a Rambus-patent-free memory technology, that permanent blacklisting will be expanded to any products that license any technology from Rambus or any of its subsidiaries.

Lets hope this is April fools day joke.

In any case, pretty easy to avoid Rambus memory products, too expensive and incompatible with the systems I like. Will join you in the black list commitment. Or at least until I can get 16GB stick for $25. That is, if Rambus decides to produce anything.

Re:April Fool's Day... (1)

Firethorn (177587) | about 6 years ago | (#22930028)

In any case, pretty easy to avoid Rambus memory products, too expensive and incompatible with the systems I like.

Might not be as easy as you think. SDRAM, for example, uses at least one patent held by Rambus. This, however, was known at the time and Rambus agreed to relatively light patent terms during the standard setting process. It still brings in millions though.

The issue here was Rambus, despite being a member of the standards body didn't disclose their patent as required by the terms to be part of the body, as a matter of fact using the meetings to further refine the patent to cover what the standards body was making part of the standard.

Then, once it was standard and widespread, pulled out the patent and started demanding excessive royalties.

I don't might the standard, disclosed patents. They did do work developing the processes covered by the patent. I object to the submarine patents.

Re:April Fool's Day... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22929866)

Parent is childish drivel. And moderarots who modded it up because it is anti- a company they dislike are equally childish.

As always the slashdot moderation system generates consensus without wisdom.

Re:April Fool's Day... (1)

Ed Avis (5917) | about 6 years ago | (#22929872)

If I were working for one of those companies, the first thing I'd do is declare bankruptcy.
And this is one reason why you don't work for them...

Re:April Fool's Day... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22930298)

Those companys could not declare bankruptcy because they are not bankrupt. What I would do if I were Hynix or one of the other large companys, is A) either tie up there award/litigation through appeals, or B) Hostile takeover (since rambus is publicly traded) take all there IP, and fire everyone at Rambus, and make sure the CEO of rambus never sees any kind of golden parachute when he is let go..

Re:April Fool's Day... (1)

afxgrin (208686) | about 6 years ago | (#22930440)

heh because other RAM manufacturers are so communal and play fair all the time.

I kind of like the idea of just doing research on memory technology, getting patents on the shit, and then licensing the technology to other companies. Manufacturing is the boring part of it all.

Come on people, this is RAM, it's not a cure to AIDS or Cancer. I don't really feel any sympathy for the RAM manufacturers otherwise. Plus, I feel the news outlets were totally unfair to RAMBUS when this original story came out. Or at least some of news aggregators were unfair and attempted to build animosity towards RAMBUS. I'm kind of going back on comments I made years ago on this topic, but that's because I believe the RAM industry is full of sneaky bastards.

Re:April Fool's Day... (1)

SHaFT7 (612918) | about 6 years ago | (#22930484)

if you think that us 'geeks' banding together would make one lick of difference, then unfortunately you don't know how the economy and business really work. sorry, don't mean to flame, but its just not realistic (but it DOES sound good on paper!)

Re:April Fool's Day... (5, Insightful)

cgenman (325138) | about 6 years ago | (#22928706)

Oh come on. Who would believe that a company would intentionally work soon-to-be patented technology into widely-accepted standards without telling anyone, then extract patent royalties at gunpoint? That would imply that companies behave in money-grubbing corrupt fashions, the patent system is broken, anti-fraud and anti-monopoly laws have no teeth, and we didn't have an exit strategy from Iraq.

oh. right. carry on then.

Re:April Fool's Day... (1)

IntlHarvester (11985) | about 6 years ago | (#22928818)

"Tom's Hardware" said it in 1999, so it must be true.

There's no possible way that Rambus could have been screwed over by what the government described as the largest illegal cartel in recent history. After all, their RAM boards were more expensive for the enthusiast!!

Re:April Fool's Day... (1)

NoOnesMessiah (442788) | about 6 years ago | (#22929758)

In other news, OOXML voted down..., Oh, wait....

Does anyone see any similarities between Rambus and OOXML? ...Or is it just me?

Sigh (-1, Redundant)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 6 years ago | (#22928300)

I'm sure there are cheers in Redmond, WA as the OOXML time bomb marches a little further to wiping out all competition.

Re:Sigh (3, Insightful)

jd (1658) | about 6 years ago | (#22928398)

Depends. If the chip companies win on appeal (unlikely) and establish case law that standards-bodies should act in good faith (very unlikely), then that could cause Microsoft problems. Most likely, the appeal will fail and trust (together with the economy) will collapse. The economy? Well, if acts of lawless corruption and deception are ruled valid instruments of commerce, who would you do business with? If Rambus can sell Micron one thing when it is something totally different for the purpose of plunder, all entirely legally, anybody can sell you anything and hand over nothing equally legally.

Re:Sigh (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | about 6 years ago | (#22929066)

What I don't get is why the big RAM producers don't just get together to buy them and bury them. Hell, nobody like a patent troll, and it would probably be cheaper than paying them(although it would have been smarter to do a buy and bury before the judgment)

Re:Sigh (1)

Splab (574204) | about 6 years ago | (#22929350)

Because thats not how the world works. Who should own the patent afterwards? You can't as a corporation go out paying heaps of dollars for something that you won't end up owning.

Get with the Program (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22928328)

Please don't post actual news on April Fool's Day. It's really confusing. Only because I looked at the date on the article did I not think this was a joke.

Seriously guys, what percentage of the Slashdot community reads the article and checks the date on the article?

Eternity (1)

Prius (1170883) | about 6 years ago | (#22928336)

What? I stayed up for an hour waiting for something about PATENTS??? Come on man, if you're going to make me wait that long, it'd better be something like, "Three-Headed Man Forms A Capella Group" or "ETs Land at Verizon HQ to Phone Home." Now I'm pissed off. Thank's for nothing Zonk!

The big joke (2, Insightful)

elmedico27 (931070) | about 6 years ago | (#22928344)

I think the joke is going to be the entire Slashdot readership going "wait for it... wait for it..." and being skeptical all day long.

Re:The big joke (5, Funny)

lilomar (1072448) | about 6 years ago | (#22928614)

1. Let anticipation build up over April fools.
2. Don't deliver.
3. Let the /. community get used to getting regular news.
4. at about 12 noon... 5. OMGPONIES!!!
6. ???

bad.. (1)

threefcata (1258676) | about 6 years ago | (#22928350)

This is called patent troll..

Re:bad.. (5, Interesting)

Spy der Mann (805235) | about 6 years ago | (#22928426)

This is called patent troll..

Not quite. First of all, this is a hardware patent. Second, Rambus was an actual technology developer [slashdot.org]. Turns out that Rambus' competitors did price fixing [slashdot.org] to prevent Rambus memory tech from entering the market.

Now, I'm not saying the Rambus guys are poor victims [slashdot.org], IMO they're as guilty as the other companies, but I'm thinking that Intel and the others might be getting what they deserve. It's as if Rambus told them: you know the rules, and so do I [youtube.com] ;-)

Re:bad.. (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | about 6 years ago | (#22928444)

I believe that I may be developing a form of extra-sensory perception that tells me, without me looking, that links like that are precisely what I expected. I call it the Rixth-sense. Unfortunately I am weirdly compelled to click on it...

Re:bad.. (1)

FearForWings (1189605) | about 6 years ago | (#22928520)

How exactly was the price fixing hurting Rambus' RDRAM?
The problem was the major manufactures colluding to increase the price of DRAM and DDR DRAM.

RDRAM failed because it really didn't meet the needs of the time. Even with the DRAM price increases, RDRAM was too expensive and had too much latency.

Re:bad.. (4, Informative)

Spy der Mann (805235) | about 6 years ago | (#22928580)

How exactly was the price fixing hurting Rambus' RDRAM?

From Wikipedia:

Few DRAM manufacturers have ever obtained the license to produce RDRAM, and those who did license the technology failed to make enough RIMMs to satisfy PC market demand, causing RIMM to be priced higher than SDRAM DIMMs, even when memory prices skyrocketed during 2002.[13] During RDRAM's decline, DDR continued to advance in speed while, at the same time, it was still cheaper than RDRAM. Meanwhile, A massive price war in the DDR SDRAM allowed DDR SDRAM to be sold at or below production cost. DDR SDRAM makers were losing massive amounts of money, while RDRAM suppliers were making a good profit for every module sold. While it is still produced today, few motherboards support RDRAM. Between 2002-2005, market share of RDRAM had never extended beyond 5%.[14]

In 2004, it was revealed that Infineon, Hynix, Samsung, Micron, and Elpida had entered into a price-fixing scheme .[15] Infineon, Hynix, Samsung and Elpida all entered plea agreements with the US DOJ, pleading guilty to price fixing over 1999-2002.[16] They paid fines totalling over $700 million and numerous executives were sentenced to jail time.

Rambus has alleged that, as part of the conspiracy, the DRAM manufacturers acted to depress the price of DDR memory in an effort to prevent DRDRAM from succeeding in the market. Those allegations are the subject of lawsuits by Rambus against the various companies.

So, yes, this is a massive litigation war.

(April Fools: How about adding a little twist [youtube.com] to the current RickRolling tendency? :) )

Re:bad.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22929832)

Two things:

1) It merely says "Rambus has alleged", not "It was proven".
2) Lowering your prices in an effort to beat competitors is what a free capitalistic market is all about; it's ridiculous to complain about that.

Re:bad.. (1)

Firethorn (177587) | about 6 years ago | (#22930094)

scratches head

Okay, We have price fixing to both increase the price of DDR SDRAM, and price fixing to kill RDRAM? They seem mutually exclusive to me.

From my memory, I think what killed RDRAM was that it cost substantially more than standard RAM, and benchmarking showed it was no better or worse on most tasks than SDRAM/DDR. Not to mention having uneven heat loads requiring heat spreaders to ensure you don't cook a portion of the memory chip.

Another point would be that Rambus killed itself by making licensing hard enough that you ended up with few enough manufacturers willing to go through the expense/effort that collusion was possible.

heat spreaders (1)

BlackSnake112 (912158) | about 6 years ago | (#22930752)

I thought heat spreaders area good idea even for those that do not over clock at all? Most of the DDR2 memory that is available has heat spreaders on them. There are some without the heat spreaders, but most do have them on. Isn't getting rid of the heat in a computer a good thing?

RDRAM is/was way over priced. 2GB of RDRAM cost more then a whole new computer with 2GB of DDR2 memory. And that was when 2GB of DDr2 cost like $400. I have to look up the RDRAM prices now. We decided to replace all the RDRAM RAM computers. Upgrading just the RAM wasn't worth it when you could replace the entire computer for less with a faster one.

Re:bad.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22928864)

It's as if Rambus told them: you know the rules, and so do I

you f@#$ing b#@!$!#


Comparable to firewire in some ways... (1)

pjr.cc (760528) | about 6 years ago | (#22930944)

Rambus came out with a technology and then attached tonnes of $ onto that technology - so the industry did what it does best, developed a competing technology with lower licesning fees (see firewire vs USB as a good example of a wonderful tech being maimed by its own creators). In reality, not only did rambus create a tech that turned out not-to-be-so-crash-hot-after-all, they priced themselves out of the market to a large degree (or at least made intel go "oh f**k, AMD's ram is sooo much cheaper to implement than ours, how do we get out of this bloody contract??" - or something like that).

Sure, rambus did some good things but its a pity they charged an arm and a leg for it... an even bigger pity that the resulting competing tech used tech patented by rambus.

I wonder if USB would ever suffer the same thing from firewire?? Now if you think RAM could be a problem from a patent troll, consider what that would mean if USB2 impacted a patent covered by firewire - that would cause serious damage to the industry..

Keep in mind, also, that RAMBUS didn't make ram, in their own words (paraphased) "we only make high-speed busses that access RAM, not ram itself". Thats right, all they were responsible for was an interface.

Not really (5, Informative)

symbolset (646467) | about 6 years ago | (#22928532)

It's called a submarine patent. They call it that because it lurks there and lets you get all confident before it surfaces and torpedos your business.

Another company did this with .gif, and another with .jpg. In fact I doubt there are many accepted standards that lack these traps. The companies that participate in standards do their best to ensure their patented technologies are included in their standards.

The standards bodies have a term for this. They require not that the standards contain no patented content, but rather that licensing is available under terms that are "RAND": Reasonable and non discriminatory.

There can be no better example than the current hot topic, OOXML. MS has offered their "promise" that they won't sue people for using their specification for non commercial use under certain (unlikely) conditions. They won't even call it a license.

It's all a lie, of course. A corporation does not buy something so expensive as a submarine unless they have a plan to use it.

That's not the same thing as patent troll. A patent troll has no other business than patenting the obvious and suing people who follow the simplest path. While these patents are one clear answer to certain technical problems they are not the only obvious answer. Also, Rambus does have a legitimate business (or did).

Therefore it's not a patent troll, it's a submarine patent. I'll agree that it's despicable though.

At least submarining has now been sunk (1)

N Monkey (313423) | about 6 years ago | (#22929254)

It's called a submarine patent. They call it that because it lurks there and lets you get all confident before it surfaces and torpedos your business.

Submarine patents were possible in the US due to, frankly, stupid rules where, IIRC, the patentor could continually tweak the patent to stop it being granted until they felt the time was right. It then had a life of (again, IIRC) 17 years from the date of grant.

Thankfully, the US caught up with the rest of the world a few years ago and changed their rules to match. Now a patent application will automatically become public 18 months after filing and (IIRC) it also expires 20 years from filing.

Re:Not really (1)

OrangeTide (124937) | about 6 years ago | (#22929484)

I agree it's a submarine. A patent troll fishes for easy settlements. I don't think developing a technology and inserting it into a standard is easy. Dirty pool, but not easy.

Fool me once... (5, Insightful)

deranged unix nut (20524) | about 6 years ago | (#22928354)

Afterwhich Rambus was never trusted in a standards committee again...

Re:Fool me once... (5, Insightful)

Gutboy (587531) | about 6 years ago | (#22928392)

It surprises me that after what Rambus has done, that standards orgs don't require that all patents, copyrights, whatever be donate to the public domain if it turns out that any member (or members org) has a patent, copyright, etc. on anything in the standard. If you don't want to lose your patent, you don't get to participate in making a standard.

Re:Fool me once... (1)

Daengbo (523424) | about 6 years ago | (#22928494)

The orgs only require that patents be made available for fair and reasonable rates, and the FTC ruled that the rates Rambus wanted to charge were F&R in 2006.

Re:Fool me once... (1)

kurt555gs (309278) | about 6 years ago | (#22928576)

Well, like ISO and OOXML (M$XML)?

To bad the ISO folks aren't reading this Slashdot artical.

M$XML is designed to do exactly this.

Re:Fool me once... (4, Interesting)

timeOday (582209) | about 6 years ago | (#22928522)

That could be the worst effect of this... undermining the standards bodies. Getting competitors to play nice is hard enough even when they aren't stabbing each other in the back. Now they're more likely to figure it's safer just to go their own proprietary ways, which would mean more expensive and incompatible gear for us.

Re:Fool me once... (1)

pcfixup4ua (1263816) | about 6 years ago | (#22930380)

Most standard Bodies now simply rubber stamp whatever corporation owns the government(s) that sanction the bodies. Think what Microsoft is doing with OOXML, they are bribing government officials in key countries to force this standard on the industry and shut down ODF. Once they do that, they will declare that only Microsoft Office(tm) can satisfy the standard.

Re:Fool me once... (1)

poot_rootbeer (188613) | about 6 years ago | (#22930538)

Afterwhich Rambus was never trusted in a standards committee again...

Furthermore the OEM industry as a whole moved away from Rambus technology towards less patent-encumbered alternatives once the extent of the clusterfuck came to light.

And that is why I don't care whether or not OOXML gets adopted as an ISO standard, and skip the daily Slashdot stories about it, because it WILL get found out sooner or later that Microsoft's offering is useless garbage.

Bad faith, but good tech (5, Interesting)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | about 6 years ago | (#22928366)

For all its faults, Rambus is/was staffed with very smart people who were actively working on memory designs in an effort to create licensable blueprints. They weren't just sitting around grabbing at every obvious idea, but were actually trying to provide a service to hardware vendors.

They totally fucked themselves by becoming a pariah in the standards push, but their technology is real and substantial. Their big problem (aside from the obvious bad choice to torpedo the standards committee) was that they didn't actually produce their own RAM for a long time. This gave the impression that they were just another patent bottom feeder when in actuality they were bringing good technology to the table.

Re:Bad faith, but good tech (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22928454)

Rambus tried to present their patens during the standards body. The Big memory copanies wouldn't let them! I'm not saying that Rambus has totally clean hands, but anybody that thinks a small company of 200 employees can totally fool every memory manufacturer in the world is smokin' some serious dopen. Rambus is chock full of super smart engineers that invented brilliant new ways of making memory faster and the Global multinational memory manufacturers stole it and tried to flick them under the carpet.

After reading the transcripts of this last tria it is pretty clear that Micron is the crook. And of course their lawyer is going to say that it was unfair and those stupid jurors just don't understand anything after listening for 6 weeks. Give me a break. They took about 2 hours to unanamously side with RAMBUS. Anybody who still believes that Rambus are a bunch of Patent trollers is either too lazy or stupid to really see what has happened here.

Keep in mind that many companies are paying RAMBUS royalties for their designs. I hope Micron gets F***** by little RAMBUS. They are practically broke anyway..

Re:Bad faith, but good tech (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22929032)

Your history of this patent dispute is seriously flawed. Whether or not they behaved illegally, to me, it's pretty clear that they behaved improperly vis-a-vis the standards body.

Furthermore, there is the more basic question of whether Rambus actually innovated, or whether their patents are on the applications of fairly standard techniques to RAM, something anybody of ordinary skill in the field could have come up with. I think it's the latter.

So, how long have you worked for Rambus?

Re:Bad faith, but good tech (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22929804)

Rambus wrote an early (and decent) patent on one of their designs, and that patent languished for years in the patent office, eventually being abandoned. Several years later, they wrote a continuation of that patent that was eventually granted, which covered their design.

Now the issue begins.

During the time that those two patents were hidden away in the patent office, Rambus attended the JEDEC committee meetings for standardizing SDRAM and DDR. They essentially sat there, silent, making the actively participating representatives nervous. Eventually there was a "put up or talk up" request issued to the Rambus people, and they walked out of the committee meetings.

Also during that time, they began writing continuations of the second in-office application, which was a continuation of the first application. With these continuations the examined the descriptive section of the first application (which isn't allowed to change on a continuation) and began extracting new claims which were precisely written against the emerging SDRAM and DDR standards.

Even though those features may have only been mentioned in passing, not taught in the original art.
Even though to one skilled in the art they were rather obvious.

The applications were granted, and that's the basis of the current mess.

Re:Bad faith, but good tech (1)

thogard (43403) | about 6 years ago | (#22930376)

If the patent hadn't been published and other people "invented" the same stuff, isn't clear that the invention is "obvious to someone practised in the arts"? or at least someone in the same field?

Re:Bad faith, but good tech (3, Insightful)

Abcd1234 (188840) | about 6 years ago | (#22930576)

Umm, no. Not at all. Two people inventing the same thing just means that two very smart people had similar ideas. It doesn't make them obvious (Calculus being the most glaring example... both Newton and Leibniz built their work on existing efforts, but independently made leaps that none had before).

Re:Bad faith, but good tech (1)

darkmeridian (119044) | about 6 years ago | (#22930610)

Rambus was once an innovator in the field that shipped products. However, the most reprehensible thing they did was to draw their patents to cover SDRAM products during the prosecution process while taking part in the standards-setting committee. In other words, their original filings did not cover the product, so they slowly adjusted their patent claims to grab that subject matter. Prosecution remains a secret for quite a while, so Rambus basically bamboozled the JDEC into having to pay royalties.

What next? (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 6 years ago | (#22928368)

Considering that Rambus is still around and they obviously haven't been selling RDRAM, are they still relevant in the consumer market place for memory?

The only products listed on their website are:
# XDR [rambus.com]
# Custom Solutions

From their press releases, XDR seems like the only thing they're really selling.

What is next (1)

symbolset (646467) | about 6 years ago | (#22928596)

I hear there's a new rambus memory tech in development for servers. It would be incredible except that rambus is a spinout of Intel. Read up on the Rambus history if you want to understand this.

Several companies do this. Executives from a group spin out in an entrepeneurial venture. Then they build their businesses on technologies they worked on in their parent companies.

Eventually the spinout gets bought back in for huge profits for the executives involved.

For HP this has evolved into an unofficial executive retirement plan. The benefit for the corp is deniability. They didn't submarine the patents - their newly acquired subsidiary did.

Looks like it's time for a new tag (1)

artifex2004 (766107) | about 6 years ago | (#22928396)


As in, surely it's an April Fool's joke! Except it's not!

Re:Looks like it's time for a new tag (2, Informative)

i.of.the.storm (907783) | about 6 years ago | (#22928480)

!omgponies would be the preferred syntax, I believe.

Re:Looks like it's time for a new tag (1)

artifex2004 (766107) | about 6 years ago | (#22928570)

and that's why I should be asleep right now :)

Thanks for the reminder. Looks like it actually took, too.

Re:Looks like it's time for a new tag (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22928616)

It depends. For instance, your suggestion would have paled mightily in comparison with

"omgponies... NOT!"

back during the heady days of high school in the 90s. *Sigh* If only I knew then what I know now...


Call me optimistic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22928434)

I think Rambus will lose on appeal. The case is about business practices, which the common jury may not really grasp. They may in fact have gotten lost in the whole "it's our invention" thing. It's not really about the technology itself, which means that people don't really need to know what Rambus' invention does, just that Rambus used it to sabotage the standards. Appellate judges should know enough about trade laws that they can overturn the decision with confidence.

April Fools! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22928438)

April Fools... surely.

No court would be stupid enough to let Rambus get away with this, right?

pls? (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22928464)

Mod me up.

It's after 2 AM EDT.... (1)

bigt_littleodd (594513) | about 6 years ago | (#22928466)

on April 1 at /. Two hours now and no PinkDot. No jokes. Is this the April Fools' gag itself? That there is no spoon?

Sue the standards committee next (4, Insightful)

Skapare (16644) | about 6 years ago | (#22928470)

Hynix, Micron, and Nanya should sue the standards committee over this. Maybe that would force all standards committees to proactively get every participant to sign over all patent rights to participate in the standards process. Those companies that want to not do that would have to sit out.

Re:Sue the standards committee next (1)

jtshaw (398319) | about 6 years ago | (#22929426)

Signing over the patent rights is not really the issue. I'm totally ok with RAMBUS having a technology patented and collecting license fees on it. What I'm not ok with is them deceiving folks into standardizing on there technology. Perhaps if it was known by the others at the time of the meetings that RAMBUS was patenting the tech they would have still chosen it, perhaps not, but at least give them the choice knowing all the facts.

Honestly, I'd like to see those patents surrendered to JEDEC or the IEEE at this point. Something of that nature is certainly the only way RAMBUS will ever get themselves back into one of those meetings again.

Subverting standards organizations.... (4, Funny)

stox (131684) | about 6 years ago | (#22928476)

seems to be very popular lately. Does someone have a patent on in yet?

I'm trying to figure out which is worse... (1)

firefly4f4 (1233902) | about 6 years ago | (#22928504)

This case, where company pushes for standards, waits for everyone to implement them, and THEN reveals that it has the patents on parts of the standard...

Or the MSXML case, where they're pushing for a standard that has been SHOWN to be riddled with patented parts (such as MP3, I believe), with a "promise" that they won't sue anyone who issues the (full) standard, which even their own product doesn't do.

A poor portent (1)

Black Sabbath (118110) | about 6 years ago | (#22928528)

> "I think they (the jurors) misapprehended what the standards-setting organizations are about and the absolute need for good faith,"

This is a poor portent for standards bodies generally. Microsoft (like Rambus) perfectly understood what these bodies are about and have sought to subvert ISO for their benefit. Unlike Rambus, they aren't seeking to collect extortion payments, merely to cement their monopoly. Both distasteful though.

juries (4, Insightful)

l2718 (514756) | about 6 years ago | (#22928534)

Well, you put the jury in the courtroom, you live with the vote of the jury. Me, I'm not sure what to think of verdicts which don't include a written explanation of the evidence and the reasoning. I know this sounds like heresey to common-law natives, but in my line of work, if you can't produce a coherent written (or at least, oral) account of your reasoning, then it can be presumed that your opinions aren't reasoned.

Re:juries (2, Interesting)

firefly4f4 (1233902) | about 6 years ago | (#22928552)

IANAL, but shouldn't this have been pretty easy to show for a jury, with just two questions, how they're either involved in deception or not?

1) Was Rambus involved in the standards process?

If not, then while there's an issue of if the patents should have been granted in the first place (and I don't agree with this, but think it's the case), I think they'd be in the clear as far as this particular jury would be concerned.... with the exception being if the patents were submitted AFTER the standard was published. However, there I'm not sure a would have have the power to say the patent itself shouldn't have been granted even though, by being a "standard" it shouldn't have (prior art).

However, if they were involved, then:

2) Were the patents in question granted or pending at the time the standard was being developed?

If yes, I'd say they did deliberately hide the fact that their patent(ed/pending) works were in the spec. If no, then by having worked on the spec they must have known those patents were already covered by the spec, and hence knew they'd be able to make a mint if they managed to get the patent after the fact... although that also calls into question the patent office for improper investigation.

Gee, thanks, Rambus! (1)

Epsillon (608775) | about 6 years ago | (#22928748)

Because we all know who will end up paying for this, don't we? Hint: It won't be the tier one manufacturers.

April Fool's? (1)

pen (7191) | about 6 years ago | (#22928858)

Damn, this article is like a reverse April Fool's joke. I could've sworn it was one, targeted towards the early adopter Slashdot readers for whom this saga is a classic. But no, it's real. :(

Re:April Fool's? (1)

Epsillon (608775) | about 6 years ago | (#22929382)

The April Fools' joke started yesterday if I'm not mistaken. Linky in case you missed it [slashdot.org] (last paragraph of the summary). It's really rather clever in a nerdy, social engineeringesque sort of way.

I am getting old (1)

_newwave_ (265061) | about 6 years ago | (#22928866)

Wow. I remember the day in 1999 that this would have received a firestorm of comments.

Go Los Altos Eagles!

outrageous (1)

apodyopsis (1048476) | about 6 years ago | (#22928932)

whats that you say? a large company many years ago sought to corrupt the standards body and use the system for its own nefarious profit schemes? Thats outrageous.

Thanks heavens you could not get away with it these days!

Is anybody realized surprised that a panel of jurors could not understand the purpose and nature of a standards body? - if you treated it as a straight patent dispute Rambus were always going to win all the way. In fact I find it hard to see exactly what laws they were alleged to of broken, maybe something on bad faith or misrepresentation? Don't get me wrong - I am NOT defending those weaselly SOBs, that was a dirty trick - but they clearly saw a loophole and exploited it.

more on the whole sorry episode here : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rambus#Lawsuits [wikipedia.org]

I would like to say that their name is MUD and their profit will be short lived - but we all know that the corporate ecosphere does not work like that and money talks.

So people will cheat (1)

OpenSourced (323149) | about 6 years ago | (#22929064)

So people will cheat if given the option. Big surprise. I have some good prime real state to sell those companies. There is a thing called due diligence. It was so difficult to ask for a waiver of all possible patents, when developing the standard? Or have a look to the patent portfolio of the intervening companies? Probably next time they will do that. There is no excuse for shoddy practices like these, and they are rightly punished.

If this was The Apprentice (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22929344)

You managed to convince an international standards organisation to integrate our patented technology into a standard without them (or our competitors) realising that we had filed a patent application which was published in the public domain before the standard was set?

You're hired!!

Juries generally get it right. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22929380)

Typical ignorant Slashdot reaction. You guys need to stick to stealing and rationalising... oops I mean "file sharing" in your mom's basement.
I have yet to see even one poster who can correctly describe what Rambus was accused (and found innocent) of doing wrong - ie remaining silent about patent applications over technology that others were proposing into the standard. Note Rambus was never accused of pushing or proposing their technologies as widely stated here.

Juries generally get it right and they have seen and heard the evidence, unlike Slashdotters. In a price fixing involving some of the participants here, the jury called it as they saw it.

Hung Jury in Chip Price-Fixing Case
Finding government's star witness not believable, jurors vote 10-2 for
Dan Levine
The Recorder
March 7, 2008

After 11 trial days, the first thing jurors talked about when they
could finally discuss the price-fixing case before them was the
government's star witness, foreperson Phyllis McCaughey said

And she was blunt about their assessment of Micron executive Michael
Sadler, who testified in the high-stakes DRAM antitrust prosecution
against his counterpart at Hynix, defendant Gary Swanson: "Mr. Sadler,
we all felt, was a lying sack of shit."

http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1204804010871 [law.com]

I worked at Micron years ago.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#22930480)

when RAMBUS first announced their first RDRAM patents.

RAMBUS tried to get a lot of companies, including Micron, to sign expensive licensing agreements. Micron make a strategic decision to find another way to produce fast RAM without having to pay licensing fees, thus their big push into DDR.

This is not the first time that companies have attempted to, or succeeded at getting their patented technology into an industry standard.

The nasty thing about this dirty trick is now RAMBUS gets to say what the license terms are instead of having to negotiate them. And they are setting them high.

IMHO, there ought to be some rule of law, that any company that participates in a standards committee and fails to mention that they happen to own the patents that cover the standard out to lose their licensing rights to that patent because of fraud.
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