Rambus narrows loss, negotiates expired licenses

SAN FRANCISCO Thu Oct 21, 2010 7:24pm EDT

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Memory chip designer Rambus reported a narrower third-quarter net loss and said it is negotiating to renew deals with Toshiba Corp (6502.T) and Renesas Electronics Corp (6723.T) after their patent licenses expired.

Rambus' efforts to sign up clients whose patent licenses have run out have been complicated by its legal disputes against memory makers Hynix Semiconductor Inc (000660.KS) and Micron Technology Inc (MU.O).

"Companies are hesitant because they don't know what will happen with these cases. It becomes a looming factor as to should they enter into license agreements when the patents could be found invalid," said Hamed Khorsand, an analyst at BWS Financial Inc.

Rambus, which designs and licenses high-speed memory chips, saw its results improve in the quarter thanks to a licensing deal signed earlier this year with former legal opponent Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (005930.KS).

"We're going to take as long as it takes to reach agreements that meet the needs of our business and our shareholders," Rambus Senior VP Sharon Holt told analysts during a conference call. "That being said, the negotiations are proceeding well."

Los Altos, California-based Rambus expects in November to receive its first payment from a patent license recently signed with graphics chip maker Nvidia Corp (NVDA.O).

WAITING FOR RULING

Rambus granted that license for SDR memory controllers after the International Trade Commission ruled that Nvidia and others had infringed Rambus' chip patents.

Rambus shares fell 1.5 percent to $19 in after-hours trading after falling 0.5 percent in regular trading.

Rambus is awaiting rulings after it reargued lawsuits in October in patent disputes with Hynix and Micron before a federal appeals court.

Those cases involves whether Rambus, with revenue up 14 percent year-over-year in the quarter to $31.7 million, destroyed documents related to claims that Micron and Hynix violated patents, thereby voiding future collection of damages.

Rambus' third-quarter net loss fell to $20.6 million, or 18 cents a share, from $27.5 million, or 26 cents per share, in the year-ago period.

Samsung settled its long-running legal battle with Rambus in January, agreeing to a licensing and investment pact that could be worth $900 million to the memory chip designer over half a decade.

(Reporting by Noel Randewich; editing by Tim Dobbyn and Andre Grenon)

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