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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?

    • Microsoft comes to mind

      • by Billly Gates (198444) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @06:48PM (#38080316) Journal

        Rambus is or was pretty evil.

        Didn't they go out of business? First they attended the sdram IEE conferences where the design of SDRAM was discussed and how all the memory chip makters would make it back in 1992. Rambus immediately called the headquarters and patented the whole spec on purpose to sue everyone out of existence to force their own proprietary design.

        Then they gave away 25% of their shares to Intel below market value in exchange for using only Rambus ram. Intel woudl get billions in kickbacks if SDRAM went out of existence and gave a financial incentive.

        Then they sued everyone and if it were not for AMD Rambus would be the next monopoly in ram. AMD still used Sdram which many of us preferred over the high latency and $$$ rambus. They lost and thank god. We would be stuck with $200 512 meg ram chips today with just rambus existing and probably no flash drives.

        They were worse than MS in my opinion and filled with greed.

        • 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

            Rambus had also accounts with Sun Microsystems to integrate Rambus technology into their memory infrastructures. Also, when HP was making it's revision to their holding of Compaq's DEC Alpha architecture they achieved godly bandwidth that excelled over architectures of Intel and AMD. HP never released any RECENT systems using Rambus. It's like nothing makes the light of day when it comes to Alpha (ever since Intel Itanium was forced on everyone). What we are seeing from Rambus today is their critique over

          • by Anonymous Coward

            Rambus is every PS3 and PS2 sold. PS3 uses XDR RAM from rambus and the PS2 just uses regular RDram.

            Thanks, Sony.

          • by klui (457783) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @11:57PM (#38082526)

            If SCO can last nearly a decade I'm not surprised Rambus's lawsuits would last as long if not longer.

        • 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.

          • by loyukfai (837795)

            This has been going for 10-year, but unlike IBM vs SCO, there seems to be no Groklaw to explain the situation...

            Can I assume what's on rambus.org is full of FUD...?

            One thing still baffles me, if the memory makers were sure that Rambus had no ground in court, why did some of them still coughed up millions of dollars to them...?

            I know sometimes having a settlement is cheaper than going all the way through litigation, and sometimes acting shrewdly does not necessarily mean illegal, but still...

            Could it be that

        • by thue (121682) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @07:33PM (#38080830) Homepage

          > Then they sued everyone and if it were not for AMD Rambus would be the next monopoly in ram. AMD still used Sdram which many of us preferred over the high latency and $$$ rambus.

          It was not just AMD which used SDRAM. Other companies made chipsets and motherboards which worked with Intel CPUs and used SDRAM.

          As RDRAM failed to match SDRAM technically and price-wise, Intel was saved by their competitors selling Intel-compatible chipsets, for otherwise few people would have bough Intel CPUs. Because Intel was contractually obligated to only ship RDRAM-compatible motherboards.

          • by Moryath (553296)

            In some ways, I'm sad it didn't work out. The AMD chips for the time were a LOT better anyways. Even today, unless you're on the bleeding-fucking-edge $900/chip range, AMD is better bang for your buck. If Intel hadn't been able to force companies to be "Intel chip" with 3rd party motherboards for decent RAM, we might have seen AMD actually break the Intel beige-box monopoly.

            • by DnaK420 (2468202)
              http://www.cpubenchmark.net/high_end_cpus.html [cpubenchmark.net] Check out the 2600k 4 core compared to the next amd 8150 8core. 2k diff for 50 dollars? Intel has AMD stomped for a while. This coming from AMD owner 2000-2004.
              • Its a 20% seed increase for 40% more. For almost every AMD on that graph, you can't find a Intel above it for a price even close to it. But... AMD does not have anything at the top. He said $900 and it is more like $300, but big deal.

            • by hairyfeet (841228)

              Oh AMD still have some sweet chips in the game, there is a reason why they had to slow down their desktop A series production to crank up the mobile and that was because they were selling their brazos chips faster than they were able to crank them out. They simply didn't see the uses other than netbooks and weren't prepared for all these all in one and HTPC units using brazos as well. if you haven't tried one they are really nice, great battery life, low power, built in Radeon GPU that accelerates pretty mu

              • The Windows 7 cpu scheduler screws up the threading with the bulldozers. The way the cpu architecture is setup where the cache is shared and a miss will cause a big delay between the cores. It can be done better without Windows 7 trying to but the threads on the same CPU as the father process.

                Windows 8 and Linux will show the bulldozers about 20% faster. This was from another slashdotter so I do not know how reliable that is. The thunderbirds have a nice branch prediction that takes of multithreading intern

                • by hairyfeet (841228)

                  Sorry friend but i'm betting Win 8 is Vista the second coming. people were curious about win 7 but when i showed them win 8 all i got was HATRED that made ME look like XP.

                  As for Phenom II the dirty little secret the chip manufacturers don't want you to know is except for a few niche roles chips have been beyond "good enough" for quite some time. i love to game and frankly the ONLY reason I'm going to Thuban is because it is cheap and I like to transcode and the software i use scales with CPUs. but for gamin

                  • Win8 should really have been its own tablet os, it's a disaster of a thing to use on a desktop, and I was well excited after win7 :/
                  • Ypur old posts were very critical of Windows 7 and when it came out it wasn't that bad.

                    Win 8 is still in development so I hope MS comes to its senses as it is testing the METRO tile which would be great on a tablet. Ars Technica had a story where MS wanted to get rid of the start button so I dread you might be right. As of today no one should still be running XP. I mean come on! Vista with it being bad and many years late taught the accountants and even average Joes that using obsolete browsers and operatin

                    • by thejynxed (831517)

                      The problem with Win8...is that Win7 is already good enough for the vast majority of consumers (business and home), and is rapidly filling the vacancy left by WinXP.

                      Why would anyone want to swap to Win8 on desktops when it's obviously meant for tablets/phones? We won't even get into the nastiness that is Win8 and PC gaming - gamers are truly fucked with Win8, unless all they want to play is stupid shit like Angry Birds.

                      The rest of us began our suffering with the developer preview of Win8. It's going to be

                    • by hairyfeet (841228)

                      If you were to go back and read my posts on Win 7 I was unhappy that they were taking CHOICE away from the user, as I have said about a bazillion times the user is king and THEY should decide, not supermegacorp. If I wanted zero choice I'd have Apple, thanks. And you'll notice once I started running the beta I had nothing but good things to say as I found third party hacks that gave choice back to the users. If a customer wants the classic start menu and quicklaunch? I can give it to them, not a problem. Ag

          • by Guppy (12314)

            As RDRAM failed to match SDRAM technically and price-wise, Intel was saved by their competitors selling Intel-compatible chipsets, for otherwise few people would have bough Intel CPUs. Because Intel was contractually obligated to only ship RDRAM-compatible motherboards.

            It wasn't long after this, that Intel started forcing 3rd party chipset makers out. No such thing as gratitude in this business, I guess.

        • by Fluffeh (1273756)

          Rambus is or was pretty evil.

          Then they sued everyone and if it were not for AMD Rambus would be the next monopoly in ram. AMD still used Sdram which many of us preferred over the high latency and $$$ rambus. They lost and thank god.

          And the share market punished them today [nasdaq.com]. Like really punished. Opening Stock price $18.04. Closing stock price $7.11. That's a 60% drop, and when you consider that the company (was) worth in the billions, that is a massive massive drop for a single day.

        • by tlhIngan (30335)

          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.

          Didn't they go out of business?

          Unfortunately, not only are they still in business, they're still licensing designs.

          In fact, maybe you have some Rambus-using stuff in your house, and maybe it was used in the past day.

          And not only does Rambus have licensing revenue coming in for the near future, they may also be set for t

          • by drinkypoo (153816)

            Three characters: P, S, and 3.

            and before that, N, 6, and 4. remember how much it cost to add another 4MB of RDRAM to that system?

            • by tlhIngan (30335)

              and before that, N, 6, and 4. remember how much it cost to add another 4MB of RDRAM to that system?

              Ah yes, but the price of the memory pak was probably mostly due to Nintendo markup as well. Though then again, it was before Rambus started really screwing over the world with patent lawsuits over stuff that was essential to create the cheaper/faster DDR2.

              PS2 and PS3 came after the lawsuits started flying, and I'm not sure if the N64 was really all that popular compared with the PSX at the time...

              • by drinkypoo (153816)

                The Playstation was about three times as popular worldwide as the N64. What I find interesting is that I don't know anyone who had an N64 who didn't get the memory expansion, yet at least half the N64s I see at flea markets don't have one.

        • Thanks for that summary, Billy. Well said!

          This verdict is proof the system works, then same way it works when it dismisses any Patent lawsuit. I mean it.

      • by i_b_don (1049110) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @06:49PM (#38080328)

        Please, MS has NOTHING on Rambus when it comes to using the courts.

        d

        • by ackthpt (218170)

          Please, MS has NOTHING on Rambus when it comes to using the courts.

          d

          Didn't they slip SCO a few bucks to keep them going, though?

          I only ask, I'm not accusing.

          • a company that microsoft invests money in invested a couple mill in SCO, that's just from my dodgy memory tho.
            • by Anonymous Coward

              Funny, my memory says that a few ex- or higher-up Microsofties are part of a fund that invested in SCO.

              And if the Halloween Documents mean anything, once a Microsoftie, always a Microsoftie.

          • by symbolset (646467) *
            Besides doing a fat license deal, you're probably thinking about Baystar [groklaw.net]. Though there were others.
            • by ackthpt (218170)

              Besides doing a fat license deal, you're probably thinking about Baystar [groklaw.net]. Though there were others.

              Baystar was the one - Gads, I've been following this since I had no grey hairs, not I've got a whole mess of them.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    They lost four dollars and a capital B it seems.
  • by swschrad (312009) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @06:42PM (#38080252) Homepage Journal

    it has been well-established that Rambus ran off to patent a developing industry standard in RDRAM, stealing what was to be a public standard. they can rot in hell with 640K, they have it coming. got all the morals of Darl McBride and his little troll company.

    • by TWX (665546)

      I don't honestly know if the technology was worthwhile anyway. I mean, you had to use friggin' placeholders in memory slots that had no ram in them. That's a stupid, sophomoric mistake in my opinion. I could understand such in development, but once one goes production to keep your technology that screwed up... *sigh*

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        That's just due to the nature of transmission lines. To maintain good signal integrity on a multi-drop bus, you'd either have to populate the bus in a certain order or to keep the bus looking the same regardless of how many of the slots are actually populated by having place holders simulating the load. This is not something specific to RDRAM only. You will see these problems on large enterprise systems that uses multiple dimms off the same bus/controller. Not user friendly, that's for sure though.

        You avoid

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          Or by having the same hardware on the motherboard, which would have made RDRAM systems even MORE expensive. So instead, they abstracted the cost away... which actually costs the user MORE money in the long run if they need them, but costs them nothing if they don't. And since RDRAM is fastest in pairs just like most memory is in practice (due to the width of memory buses and the width of memory units) it was pretty much a non-issue.

    • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @07:00PM (#38080438)
      The way I understood it (which does not make it any better) was that when the standard was being developed they said, "We've got this nifty-neat idea that we think would solve this problem in the new standard." Everybody else said, "Yeah, that will work." Then after the standard was established and everybody was working on moving over to it, Rambus said, "Oh, by the way, we have a patent on that essential piece of this new standard and everyone will have to pay us license fees to use it."
      I may be mistaken and your take may be more accurate, but either way, it is good to see such scum lose in court.
      • 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.
  • I wish Karma would come back and wipe out all the trolls! I will settle for it one at a time. Perhaps the MAFIAA's will be next. I made it a point never to buy anything with RDRAM in it after those lawsuits RAMBUS filed. Maybe if we are lucky they will go RAMBUST.
    • 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 Targon (17348)

        At least the MPAA tends to have a valid point in going after movie pirates. The number of people, and the expense that goes into making a movie, even one that flops is rather high. To make one recording is NOT terribly expensive in comparison, and the person or people behind the production generally get far less than the "record label". If people actually thought about the cost to produce something, they would probably still make illegal copies of music, while they might just buy the DVD or legally

  • by demonbug (309515) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @06:49PM (#38080332) Journal

    And there was much rejoicing.

  • by Local ID10T (790134) <ID10T.L.USER@gmail.com> on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @06:51PM (#38080350) Homepage

    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.

    Wow. I'd have told them to F off too...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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 fa

      • 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 chriso11 (254041)

          You are forgetting about how Intel used illegal methods to block AMD from sockets. These include monetary incentives to ONLY sell Intel. Look at how much money Intel funneled to Dell.

        • by hairyfeet (841228)

          That is because they bribed the living shit out of the OEMs, so badly one likened it to "cocaine" and dell during the price wars had several quarters where their ONLY profits were Intel kickbacks.

          As for the other poster than having the GPU means a "wasted" GPU when you add a discrete? Not so as the new units will function similar to hybrid crossfire now and when they switch over to vector graphics from VLIW they will be able to just about replace the FP unit in the chip with a much simpler one and have the

      • by ackthpt (218170)

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

        There's two ways to try winning a horse race, one is to run the fastest.

        The other, Rambus way, is to attack all the other horses.

      • It was a bloody winfall for AMD, but they didn't capitalize on it in time

        Yes they did. This was the Athlon vs P4. Clock for clock, the Athlon was faster. Comparing equal cost processors, the Althon was faster on most workloads. And RAMBUS meant that for the same cost you could get the AMD system with twice as much RAM. This was when most of the big OEMs (Dell being the exception) ditched their exclusive contracts with Intel and started offering AMD systems.

      • > 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.

        Watts don't work like that. Amps = Watts/Volts. You'd need to be pulling 1700 watts to exceed a US-110v circuit, or 2400w for 240v 10amp.

        I'm pretty sure you won't be doing that in the near future 8)

        --Rob

  • by cvtan (752695) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @06:52PM (#38080374)
    But I saved $4 billion by not using RDRAM in my home PC!
  • by Bill Dimm (463823) on Wednesday November 16, 2011 @06:56PM (#38080400) Homepage

    Intel had to agree to give Rambus the ability to block shipments of Intel processors if Rambus felt Intel was not promoting RDRAM sufficiently

    Summary gets confusing when you leave words out.

    • by znerk (1162519)

      The the impotence of proofreading, by Taylor Mali [youtube.com]

      "... There are several missed aches your spell checkhov can't can't catch catch; for instant: if you leave out word, your spell checker won't put it in you..."

    • by blair1q (305137)

      He had to leave those words out because he left so many useless ones in.

      Seriously, this could have been a one-liner and a link.

    • Intel had to agree to give Rambus the ability to block shipments of Intel processors if Rambus felt Intel was not promoting RDRAM sufficiently

      I really wonder if this clause was indeed based on Rambus feelings, rather than hard quantifiable objective numbers.

      For instance, it would have been easy to say part of the deal is that Intel needs to spend 4 million dollars by the end of Q4 on advertising our RDRAM, otherwise the penalty is that you give us the right to stop your chip shipments.

      Obviously, no one should ever agree to a legal piece of paper that accepts punitive damages that are based purely on the other person's/corporation's elusive feelin

    • by Ed Avis (5917)
      I imagined every RDRAM memory stick having a little antenna from which it would receive coded instructions from Rambus HQ to block Intel processors or any software Rambus didn't like.
  • 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 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 Anonymous Coward

    So I google searched RDRAM vs. SDRAM and found the first page basically entirely pro-RDRAM pages, many of them old, saying the stuff was basically gloriously great with the only exception being its high cost. You ever wonder if a company would hire a contractor to google bomb some info if they are in a major court case and want to try to influence jurors who may be doing some after-school research? It took a few pages before I found a realistic retrospective page. I contrast, the same realistic retrospectiv

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