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The Courts Hardware

Rambus Loses $4B Antitrust Case 112

Posted by samzenpus
from the take-it-on-the-chin dept.
UnknowingFool writes "In a vote of 9-3, a jury found that Micron and Hynix did not collude to manipulate DRAM prices in a violation of California anti-trust law against Rambus. The jury also ruled that the Idaho based Micron and the South Korea based Hynix did not interfere with Rambus' relationship with Intel. On the first point, Rambus argued the two chip makers conspired to keep Rambus RDRAM prices high while artificially keeping their SDRAM prices low. Micron and Hynix countered that high RDRAM prices were due to technical problems of the design. On the second point, an Intel manager testified that Rambus contract stipulations soured the relationship. The clause that Rambus insisted and would not waive was that to use Rambus RDRAM, Intel had to agree to give Rambus the ability to block Intel processors if Rambus felt Intel was not promoting RDRAM sufficiently. Rambus initiated the suit and the $4B was how much Rambus calculated it lost in profits."
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Rambus Loses $4B Antitrust Case

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  • Rambus... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ackthpt (218170) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @06:39PM (#38080220) Homepage Journal

    The leech that used the courts.

    No hard feelings, eh?

  • Re:About time (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TWX (665546) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @06:50PM (#38080336)

    Unfortunately RIAA/MPAA has a lot better claim to what they enforce against, mainly because are society is stupid and allows someone to own their cultural contributions much longer than they deserve to. 20, 30 years, okay. I can see that. In perpetuity? That's wrong.

    At least the motion picture industry is getting smart and releasing movies cheap. There are DVDs available retail new for $5, Blu-ray for $10. The RIAA doesn't understand that so much music is pirated because people don't want to pay more for the movie soundtrack than they do for the movie itself. It's a lot easier to put up with the MPAA when the cost to attempt to thwart is just about as high as the cost to just buy the damn disc, if one factors time into account.

  • by ackthpt (218170) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @07:02PM (#38080456) Homepage Journal

    Rambus must have some sort of war chest for suits and appeals. They've been at it for over a decade. By appearance it seems they're developing Lawyer Technology rather than memory technology.

    While the potential of a $12 billion or even $4 billion pay off might be considered mouthwatering, they'd probably have made that kind of money by now if they were putting all their money into R&D, manufacturing and licencing of revolutionary technologies.

    It may look like thinking bit, but it's really very negative, thinking small.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @07:14PM (#38080608)

    Rambus was evil from the getgo. Intel just got greedy.

    This is how supply and demand really works, if your kit is too expensive, you go use someone elses kit. It was a bloody winfall for AMD, but they didn't capitalize on it in time and it wasn't until the x64 instructions that AMD suddenly was the better option until Intel came out with it's core i5/i7 chips, effectively taking the only remaining performance point in AMD's favor (memory controller in the cpu.)

    AMD , as far as CPU's go, has nothing in it's favor unless it can beat Intel on power/thermal design. Intel doesn't make (good) graphics chips, so AMD 's GPU's are still the winning choice in 2/3rds of the market. But that's more of a "Intel catchup from a 10 year lead AMD has" in every PC I've had I've replaced the GPU twice for every one time I've replaced the CPU. When you integrate the GPU, that's a wasted piece of the CPU that doesn't get used half way through the life of the machine.

    I don't think I'll ever end up buying AMD CPU's again until it makes 3Ghz 8 core CPU's that consume 45 watts. Likewise with Intel, I won't buy any of the TDP>50watt cpu's because at full power the 95+ ones consume a third of the power available. If you want to run a SLI setup(2 x HD6990 =500watts each,) people in the US/Canada/Japan are going to be fucked over buying all the top parts because a 15A circuit won't suffice anymore.

    The joke about bitcoin farms being confused for grow-ops is getting pretty close to reality. Get the thermal envelope of the entire system to under 700 watts.

    Anyhow, RAMBUS got greedy, Intel got greedy, Intel had to throw out the entire Pentuim 4 architecture in the end and pick up where the Pentium 3 left off. Rambus products are only found in PS3's now, and at the next console cycle they'll have no customers at all.

    And what did we learn from this crapfest?

    Don't be evil, Don't be greedy, because doing so invites competition to eat your lunch.

  • by TheWanderingHermit (513872) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @07:16PM (#38080642)

    You've described it pretty well. One of their earliest cases was in Richmond, VA and I sat in to videotape a lot of the depositions. (That's how long it's been going on -- VHS and SVHS were still in use when they started suing everyone. That was around 2000-2001.)

    They admitted in depositions they were in on the meetings when the standards were drawn up and had no reason for not objecting to designs that were supposedly theirs.

    I have to admit, the Rambus lawyers were polite and easy to work with. The lawyers for the other company (a German firm) were mostly from one New York office and were just plain rude and nasty.

    I remember one deposition in particular where there was a top memory expert giving testimony and they asked him about flip-flops and if they were memory. They (the Rambus lawyers) were trying to get him to say a flip-flop was a one bit memory and he kept saying, "Under certain conditions." The lawyer was stumped and started getting worse and worse (the only time I saw a Rambus lawyer start to get nasty) because he not only couldn't get him to give the answer they wanted, but the lawyer had no understanding of what any Electronics 101 student would know. I had a hard time not laughing and shaking the camera during the time that topic was being covered. It was pretty clear to me that lawyer had not fully prepared and didn't know at all what the topic was with flip-flops. I would have loved to have stayed in that one all day, since I figured it would only get more technical and confuse the lawyer even more, but someone took my place so I could finish some editing.

  • Re:Rambust (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gstrickler (920733) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @07:33PM (#38080824)

    Wrong. Rambus submitted much of the SDRAM specifications to the group, they didn't steal it from the group. They failed to disclose they they were seeking a patent on the technologies, and as because of that failure to disclose, have lost much of the revenue they might have made had they properly disclosed it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @07:52PM (#38081026)

    I was just starting in the IT industry when Rambus came out. Part of my quiz as a low-level tech for my first IT job was to ID some pieces of hardware. I had been building PCs using AMD & SDRAM for quite a while, due to how cheaper they were vs. Intel. I was handed a Rambus chip, and my exact response was:

    "It's memory, and it has a heatsink. Either it's high-performance, or very inefficient"

    Got the job, and I soon learned it turned out it was the latter. I saw how much Rambus sucked firsthand, and was glad when regular DDR RAM started to take its place. Farewell, it wasn't nice knowing you.

  • by ChrisMaple (607946) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @08:25PM (#38081304)

    AMD had superior processors for several years. Motherboard and name brand computer manufacturers were too slow to incorporate AMD's product, and to some extent AMD was production limited. Part of the reluctance of computer manufacturers to shift to AMD was due to (illegal) contracts restricting the manufacturers to exclusive use of Intel processors.

    By the time AMD had gained significant market share, Intel was starting to recover from its design blunders and challenging AMD's performance dominance. For AMD, the gain in market share had come too late to enable them to make the gains stick.

    Intel has the cash and intelligence to stay a generation ahead in silicon technology. For Intel to lose the performance lead again, they'd have to make a clusterfuck like the P4 again.

  • by roc97007 (608802) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @08:45PM (#38081482) Journal

    I remember looking at the Rambus approach back in the nineties, and it didn't look practical. High latency, high power consumption, high cost, high complexity (which implies lower yield, which drives cost) and my most favorite of all, a single vendor. I didn't see why anyone would buy their stuff. Yes, they had the fastest throughput for awhile, but throughput isn't everything.

    Does this mean they're finished as a company? Does anyone still buy Rambus devices?

  • by Solandri (704621) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @11:11PM (#38082314)
    That's pretty much it. JEDEC required all participants to disclose any patents or pending patents on technology being discussed. That was the whole point of JEDEC - so memory manufacturers could weigh the technical merits of ideas against their licensing costs, and decide together whether or not it should go into the next standard. Rambus did not disclose, causing some ideas they had (secretly) patented to wind up in the standard under the assumption that there was no licensing cost.

    The courts actually found that Rambus was in breach of contract for violating JEDEC's membership guidelines this way. The problem was, that was just a contractual violation, not a legal one. JEDEC's guidelines did not specify what sort of punishment should befall any company which did secretly patent the technology under discussion. So even though RAMBUS was guilty of breach of contract, the only recourse left to JEDEC was to kick Rambus out. The patents, despite being obtained through or having their importance magnified by deceit, were still legally sound.

    Basically, JEDEC relied on the honor code for its members to behave. Rambus took advantage of that to secretly misbehave and screw everyone over. Unfortunately, the anti-trust investigations into memory price fixing came soon after, and under the two-front assault most of the memory manufacturers settled with Rambus, which allowed them to drag this on for as long as it has.

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