updated 01:55 pm EST, Thu December 2, 2010
Rambus sues NVIDIA and five others over DDR RAM
Rambus late Wednesday sued six semiconductor firms in a patent dispute that could jeopardize electronics. The multiple suits filed in a Northern District of California court accuse Broadcom, Freescale, LSI, MediaTek, NVIDIA and STMicro of copying Rambus technology for DDR memory, including GDDR memory for graphics, as well as common connection standards such as DisplayPort, PCI Express, SAS and SATA. It claimed ownership of some of the techniques after having bought the patents from Velio Communications in 2003, EETimes noted.
The suits are considered ironic as Velio Communications founder William Dally now works at NVIDIA. The GeForce creator has been the repeated target of Rambus before and is still facing legal action despite reaching settlements over some patent claims.
As a companion to the lawsuits, Rambus has also put in a request for a ban at the International Trade Commission that would ban the import of any devices whose components use the patents, ranging from cellphones to hard drives, network routers and set-top boxes. It would likely also ban at least some of NVIDIA's graphics technology.
Most ITC complaints are filed in the hopes of getting an early determination on patent validity to prevent it from being an issue in a longer-running trial and to potentially force a settlement.
Although Rambus still has a significant number of customers for its memory, the company for over 10 years has been basing a disproportionately large amount of its business on suing other companies and collecting royalties. It has been accused of knowingly joining the JEDEC body for memory standards and using information collected there to patent technologies it could then use to extract licensing payments from others.
Companies are likely to negotiate settlements rather than risk an outright ban, but the lawsuits could raise the prices of many pieces of electronics in the US, focusing most on the mobile devices that use chipsets from Broadcom, Freescale and STMicro.