Micron, Hynix say Rambus played dirty in PC chips

SAN FRANCISCO Tue Jun 21, 2011 3:11pm EDT

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Rambus Inc played dirty in the market for PC memory chips and blames its competitors for the consequences of its own failed technology, lawyers for Hynix Semiconductor Inc and Micron Technology Inc said in court.

Making an opening statement in a California state court on Tuesday, Hynix lawyer Kenneth Nissly said RDRAM memory technology developed by Rambus had design and technical problems that kept it from ever becoming widely adopted, despite early support from giant chipmaker Intel Corp.

In a long-running antitrust lawsuit, Rambus accuses chipmakers Micron and Hynix of restricting the availability of RDRAM chips, a kind of DRAM memory, starting in the 1990s in favor of chips with their own technology.

Rambus, which made its opening statement on Monday, claims up to $4.38 billion in lost profits.

"You heard a lot yesterday accusing Hynix of being part of a conspiracy against Rambus. It was not," Nissly told jurors. "As far back as 1997, Rambus was secretly planning to sue the DRAM industry."

Rambus took advantage of a plan by Intel to adopt its technology, using the agreement as a club to negotiate licensing contracts with memory manufacturers -- until Intel eventually backed away from Rambus's RDRAM due to design problems, Micron lawyer William Price said.

Much of Rambus' income has come from patent licensing, and it has initiated litigation against a range of tech companies. Winning its legal battles makes it easier for Rambus to negotiate additional licensing arrangements.

Last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found Rambus was wrong to shred hundreds of boxes of documents relevant in two separate patent infringement lawsuits it filed.

But in the antitrust case, jurors will not be told by the court that Micron and Hynix have already proven that the chipmaker shredded documents as part of its legal strategy. Instead, the Rambus opponents will have to present evidence on that issue.

Rambus settled antitrust claims against Samsung Electronics Co Ltd last year in a deal worth up to $900 million.

Shares of Rambus, which often swing sharply on developments in the company's legal battles, were down 0.5 percent at $14.39 on Nasdaq.

The case in Superior Court of the State of California, County of San Francisco is Rambus Inc. v. Micron Technology Inc. et al, 04-431105.

(Reporting by Noel Randewich, editing by Matthew Lewis and Gerald E. McCormick)

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