Rambus says wins memory chip patent case

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Memory chip technology developer Rambus Inc RMBS.O said on Wednesday it won a key case in a long-running patent lawsuit, sending its shares 39 percent higher.

The jury rejected claims by three large memory-chip makers, Hynix Semiconductor Inc 000660.KS, Micron Technology Inc MU.N and Nanya Technology, that Rambus deliberately misled the memory chip industry in the 1990s when new standards were being hammered out.

They claim Rambus failed to disclose it was seeking patents on the technology that was then being worked into standards for chip production.

Analysts have estimated Rambus could eventually collect royalties of anywhere from hundreds of millions to billions of dollars over the next decade. It is not yet clear when Rambus might receive any back royalties.

The U.S. jury held there was no anti-competitive behavior by Rambus in its activities with a memory chip industry standards body and that the company did not commit fraud in its attempt to protect memory chip patents, Rambus General Counsel Tom Lavelle said by telephone.

“This was an important one for us,” Lavelle said, adding that it marks a first step toward Los Altos, California-based Rambus collecting royalties from other memory chip makers.

Related Coverage

Micron said it planned to appeal the verdict.

Rambus shares jumped $7.25, or 39 percent, to close at $25.86 in Nasdaq trading. The company’s options were also actively traded throughout the day as investors speculated that Rambus would prevail.

At issue is whether the developer of a speedy new memory technology deserved to be paid for its inventions, or whether the company misled memory chip makers.

“I think they (the jurors) misapprehended what the standards-setting organizations are about and the absolute need for good faith,” said Jared Bobrow, an outside attorney for Micron.

Wednesday’s verdict comes after a judgment against Hynix in 2006 that resulted in a $133 million award to Rambus, Lavelle said, and potentially clears the way for Rambus to collect on that verdict.

“At this point, that figure will go up,” Lavelle said, because he said Hynix has continued to ship products that infringe Rambus patents.

Rambus has said that memory chip makers on the Joint Electron Device Engineering Council standards body knew about Rambus’ technology and designed them into their chips.

“Their attempts to invalidate our patents and find us violative of fraud laws and monopoly laws of the United States have failed,” Lavelle said on Wednesday.

Wednesday’s verdict is but one phase in a number of pending cases between Rambus, Micron and others, Micron said.

Reporting by Duncan Martell; Editing by Andre Grenon/Gary Hill