The International Trade Commission as expected Wednesday agreed to investigate a complaint filed by Rambus Inc. against Hitachi Ltd. and Sega Enterprises Ltd., in which it alleges the companies have violated Rambus patents protecting synchronous memory and high-performance bus interfaces.
The ITC has appointed Debra Morriss an administrative law judge to make a preliminary decision as to whether any Rambus patents have been infringed. If Morriss' findings reveal possible patent infringement, then the full commission will issue a final determination in a process that usually takes about a year.
In its complaint, Rambus is seeking to have Hitachi DRAMs and microprocessors barred from import into the United States. Sega was named in the case because the electronic game maker uses Hitachi microprocessors in its latest Dreamcast players.
Rambus has also filed a patent infringement suit against Hitachi in U.S. Federal District Court in Wilmingto n, Del. So far only Hitachi has been sued, although industry observers said virtually all memory and microprocessor chip makers use the synchronous timing and interface technology that Rambus claims it has patented.
Hitachi last month filed a counteraction in federal court charging that the synchronous technology was invented and widely used long before the Rambus patents were filed. The company also claimed that Rambus obtained its synchronous technology by participating in mid-1990s industry standards deliberations sponsored by JEDEC. Hitachi said Rambus then left the JEDEC discussions and used the data to form the basis of its patent applications.