Rambus Files Patents Lawsuit Against Semiconductor Firms, OEMS

Rambus, a licensing company that develops DDR-SDRAM memory technology, is known for previously having filed patent infringement lawsuits against many of the semiconductor firms and OEMs that use Rambus technology in their products. This time, Rambus is suing Nvidia, Broadcom, LSI Corp, MediaTek, STMicroelectronics and other companies for patent infringement.

“We have been attempting to license these companies for some time to no avail. One of the respondents frankly told us that the only way they would get serious is if we sued them. Others pursued a strategy of delay rather than negotiate a reasonable resolution,” Harold Hughes, Rambus president and CEO, said in a press release.

“Rambus has invested hundreds of millions of dollars developing a portfolio of technologies that are foundational for many digital electronics," Hughes said in the press release. "There is widespread knowledge within the industry about our patents including their use in standards-compatible products accused in these actions. In fairness to our shareholders and to our paying licensees, we take these steps to protect our patented innovations and pursue fair compensation for their use.”

In July, the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled in favor of Rambus against Nvidia and its partnering OEMs for violating the Tariff Act of 1930 by importing products belonging to the "Barth" family of patents that contained processors with three of Rambus' patents.

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The ITC ruling issued a limited exclusion and cease-and-desist order against NVIDIA, along with manufacturers HP, ASUS, Palit Multimedia, Palit Microsystems, MSI Computer, Micro-Star International, EVGA, Diablotek, Biostar Microtech, and BFG Technologies.

Nvidia at the time brushed aside any concerns by saying that a European Commission license will prevent any impact to its business and its partners.

The lawsuit filed Thursday involves the Barth patents as well. The Barth patents are part of another, larger family of patents known as the "Dally1" processors, after the MIT Professor from whom Rambus originally acquired the patents. The semiconductor products which Rambus says violated the Dally1 patents incorporated PCI Express, Serial ATA, Serial Attached SCSI, and DisplayPort.

Last month, the Federal Trade Commission exempted Intel from an antitrust agreement specifically regarding the inclusion of a PCI Express bus in Intel's upcoming Oak Trail processors.

In addition to the semiconductor firms mentioned in the suit, Rambus names manufacturers that partner with Intel and sold products containing Rambus technology.

Rambus also filed separate complaints over patent infringement to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California against Broadcom, Freescale, LSI, MediaTek and STMicroelectronics. The lawsuits allege that those companies infringed on patents from the Farmwald-Horowitz, Barth, and Dally patent families, all of which belong to Rambus.

Earlier this week, speculation surrounding a separate dispute between semiconductor companies arose when a report saying Intel is close to offering Nvidia a cash settlement began to circulate. The settlement refers to a counter-suit which Nvidia filed in March of 2009 against Intel, in response to an Intel lawsuit in February citing breach of contract.