The Federal Trade Commission has ruled that Rambus unlawfully monopolized
the markets for four DRAM memory technologies. The ruling concerns
Rambus’ four-year JEDEC membership, during which the FTC asserts Rambus
secretly patented technologies being developed by the standards body.
Rambus subsequently filed a number of
lawsuits against the memory industry, claiming that DDR and SDRAM
memory technologies violated Rambus patents.
The Commission’s unanimous opinion states, “We find that Rambus’s course
of conduct constituted deception under Section 5 of the FTC Act.
Rambus’s conduct was calculated to mislead JEDEC members by fostering
the belief that Rambus neither had, nor was seeking, relevant patents
that would be enforced against JEDEC-compliant products. . . . Under the
circumstances, JEDEC members acted reasonably when they relied on
Rambus’s actions and omissions and adopted the SDRAM and DDR SDRAM
“Through its successful strategy, Rambus was able to conceal its patents
and patent applications until after the standards were adopted and the
market was locked in,” states the opinion. “Only then did Rambus reveal
its patents – through patent infringement lawsuits against JEDEC
members who practiced the standard.”
The Commission’s statement doesn’t reveal what actions will be taken
against Rambus, but it says the Commission’s “broad remedial powers”
will be exercised responsibly after more discussion. In response to
the FTC ruling, Rambus Senior Legal Advisor John Danforth told
eWeek it is “highly likely” that Rambus will appeal.