By George Leopold, EE Times
Feb 12 2007 (9:00 AM)
Washington -- A federal regulator's decision in an antitrust case against Rambus Inc. sends an unambiguous message to the semiconductor industry about the need to disclose patents in industry standards deliberations, legal experts said.
Saying it wants to preserve competition in the memory market, the Federal Trade Commission last week set maximum royalty rates for some Rambus Inc. memory technologies and ordered the intellectual-property (IP) vendor to establish internal procedures to ensure full disclosure of its patents and patent applica- tions to standards groups. The commission ruled last August that Rambus monopolized the memory chip market.
"This does send a clear signal that companies can't expect to engage in willful conduct to deceive standards groups without [legal] consequences," said Sean Royall, a former FTC official who now heads the antitrust practice at the law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. "This is a precedent-setting case."
The royalty caps apply to Rambus SDRAM and DDR SDRAM licenses. The order prohibits Rambus (Los Altos, Calif.) from attempting to exceed the caps in collecting royalties. The regulator also ordered Rambus to hire an FTC-approved "compliance officer" to ensure full disclosure of the Rambus patent portfolio to the industry standards-setting groups in which Rambus takes part.
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