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Nvidia faces possible ban on imports after USITC ruling in Rambus patent suit

By Matthew · 30 replies
Jan 25, 2010
  1. Things aren't looking so hot for Nvidia. The US International Trade Commission found the company guilty of infringing on three Rambus patents. The decision may lead to a ban on the import of some Nvidia products -- unless it divvies up, of course.

    Read the whole story
  2. Patent lawsuits are good for the lawyers but bad for the consumers at the end
  3. Relic

    Relic TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 1,379   +16

    Most lawsuits between companies are...the buck just gets passed onto those consumers with higher prices.
  4. Vrmithrax

    Vrmithrax TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,333   +280

    Well, as someone with patents of my own, I can look at this from the other side. Patent lawsuits aren't the bad part, it's the guys ripping off (or borrowing from) other designs and trying to get away without paying the proper royalties and/or giving the original inventors their due that creates these situations. No rip-offs, no lawsuits. The end.
  5. "the all-but-defunct" ???????? Did this guy even read the Samsung settlement news, or even his preceding paragraph?
  6. Matthew

    Matthew TechSpot Staff Topic Starter Posts: 5,311   +100

    For clarification: It would seem that the company is living on through excessive patent suits. This belief is hardly unique. Opinions vary, and you're certainly entitled to believe what you care to.

    Also, I have made a slight correction in the last paragraph. I misread the Reuters report and was notified by email of my error (thanks again). The cited companies are involved in the same suit, not a separate case as I had suggested.
  7. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,891   +1,262

    Do your patents involve taking two standard industry items that are already in common use, combining them and claiming the "invention" as your own and patenting it?
    RAMBus provided tech to JEDEC (as did many others) with the implied, if not tacit understanding that the resultant tech was free to use by everyone involved in the working group, meanwhile underhandedly combining the seperate tech developed into an overarching patent for themselves and then staying quiet until the tech becomes industry standard then hit everyone for royalties.
    Legal...you bet!, Sure fire winner...as all hell !. Ethical.....Certainly, if you consider screwing over your business partners....is this how you obtained your patents?

  8. Vrmithrax

    Vrmithrax TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,333   +280

    I think he meant that, as a memory company, it's not really a memory producer of any note any longer, it has been passed by competitors with different RAM designs. In that respect, you could argue that Rambus exists only in an official company name and reputation of previous glory - it does nothing but license its technology out and reap the royalties, not actually produce any hardware anymore.
  9. Matthew

    Matthew TechSpot Staff Topic Starter Posts: 5,311   +100

    "I think he meant that, as a memory company, it's not really a memory producer of any note any longer, it has been passed by competitors with different RAM designs. In that respect, you could argue that Rambus exists only in an official company name and reputation of previous glory"

  10. dividebyzero..lol

    Do some DD..

    •In the early 1990's, after Rambus had signed nondisclosure agreements with almost every large Memory Manufacturer (MM), Rambus was invited to join JEDEC (an semiconductor industry organization which sets standards for the industry). The primary goal of the MM's for getting Rambus in JEDEC, was to get free access to this new and novel IP from Rambus by making it "public domain". JEDEC refused to allow Rambus to present their technology for standardization, and Rambus correctly refused to discuss their technology (which was patent pending) in an open forum, which would have allowed the MM's to claim it was public domain. However, Rambus had signed Non Disclosure Agreements with all the the major MM's individually, and had filed patents in the US and in Europe, so the MM's had intimate knowledge of the advanced technologies that Rambus had invented. They were doing whatever they could to get their hands on this intellectual property without paying Rambus royalties. In fact, have a look at the deadly menace memo written by Willi Meyer of Infineon (then part of Siemens) in 3/1994... where he said the following:

    "Rambus is not a memory, it is a memory system that includes, controller, bus, interface, protocol and memory. One day all computers will (have to) be built like this, hopefully without royalties going to Rambus."

    Also, included in the link above is a 9/1992 presentation by Willi Meyer where he discussed the option of using Rambus IP by making it "public domain".

  11. http://www.rambus.com/fr/news/press_releases/2009/090609.html

    Not indicative of a company resting on its laurels....

    This company of 300+ has over 200 engineers working full time on new inventions and innovations. I know it is cool in "Geekdom" to hate Rambus but perhaps it is time to cut them some slack?

    Have a nice day!
  12. First of all, if this group truly believed that Rambus was going to just give up their revolutionary inventions for free, why didn't they simply ask them to put that guarantee in writing?

    Secondly, you are assuming that if they knew Rambus was not going to just give up their IP for free, that JEDEC would have used some other method that was just as good but was actually free, and thus not get locked in to using Rambus IP. The problem is that there was no technology that was as good as what Rambus invented!!! If they had only chosen to use free designs, then they would have had a vastly inferior product.

    Third, how did Rambus "stay quiet" if they had the members of JEDEC sign non-disclosure agreements during meetings with them before they even joined the group. Why would someone who was asked to sign an NDA just assume that the company was going to give up the same information for public use?

    Your arguments don't make any sense.
  13. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,891   +1,262

    RAMbus didn't invent SDRAM-- they acquired the IP before the legitimate inventors had a chance to patent it themselves- the information (as is well documented) came from the working group that RAMBus was a part of up until 1995. As you should be aware , part of the legal defense in the Infineon trial centered around the fact that RAMBus were considering patents covering features of the SDRAM standard which stemmed from public meetings JEDEC were holding, their argument is the RAMBus breached "good faith" -which has very little to do with business it would seem
    If RAMBus were so lily-white why were they accused of shredding documents and destroying evidence? - why was the case thrown out? they didn't win their settlement with Infineon in court- it was a negotiated settlement out of it.
    I won't argue the legality of it but you won't find many independant people backing RAMbus's ethicality

    I'm also fairly reluctant to believe the word of RAMBus produced documents.
    They are hardly going to produce propaganda/information that shows them in a bad light now are they? Show me an independent assessment of the good business ethics RAMBus have employed.
    Obviously Guest=Troll.

  14. Matthew

    Matthew TechSpot Staff Topic Starter Posts: 5,311   +100

    All of those press releases involve XDR DRAM and/or brag about patents. One is almost four years old, and two are virtually the same press release. It doesn't sound like those 200+ engineers have been very busy.
  15. "...excessive lawsuits"..? What should a company do when thieves steal their patented technology? Technology which their engineers developed and paid for over years of time. Should Rambus just say, fine, enjoy all our work and time for free - Get real and stop reading PR written by and/or paid for by the thieves. This is a David and Goliath story about a small, brilliant
    company being ripped off by the huge corporations in the field.

    If you want to read the real story, read the Initial Decision by ALJ McGuire in the FTC vs Rambus case. The ID was upheld by the CAFC and the Supreme Court. It's 330+ pages but it's a complete picture of the true story. Be sure to read it all to the end.

    You might also ask why Samsung, Hynix, and others plead guilty and their officers served time in jail from DOJ antitrust-pricefixing charges (Micron got amnesty and turned evidence) for the very same crimes as Rambus charges.

    Rambus is the victim here - not the theiving corporations.
  16. The only thing Rambus has ever been bypassed with is products containing Rambus' patented technology made by others without paying Rambus.

    If you're truly interested in what Rambus has invented lately - go to their website and look at the list.
  17. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,891   +1,262

    "Guest"....or should I call you Comical Guest.
    Your argument is based on a legality that is not under dispute. The RAM makers were found guilty of price-fixing....naughty RAM makers, do not pass go, do not collect $200.
    This hardly exonerrates RAMBus and their despicable practices

    What is under dispute here is the intent and ethics behind the "patent ambush" and trolling, and RAMBus's underhanded way of gaining patents from an open-source working group.
    Sticking to the company line and ignoring the ethical aspects of this discussion just show you up for the Rambus lower-level media relations flack that you undoubtedly are.

    Give my regards to the rest of the office and the 200+ engineers....and have another donut at lunch, you deserve it.
  18. AMENDING PATENTS IS LEGAL!! CAFC (Kingsdown 1988): It should be made clear at the outset of the present discussion that there is nothing improper, ilegal or inequitable in filing a patent application for the purpose of obtaining a right to exclude a known competitor s product from the market; nor is it in any manner improper to amend or insert claims intended to cover a competitors product the applicant's attorney has learned about during the prosecution of a patent application.

    Kenneth Starr for Infineon at the CAFC Appeal hearing:

    CAFC: "You of course are not arguing that amending applications, as long as you are within the scope of your original disclosure, is somehow inappropriate?

    STARR: "Not at all, and that's why.."

    CAFC: "Or any impropriety in acquiring information to make those amendments by virtue of your participation in JEDEC?"

    STARR: "That is exactly right."

    Rambus wins:

    Judge Whyte (CNDC), of the US District Court of Northern California in San Jose, this week ruled that "Rambus did not engage in unlawful spoliation of evidence", the memory technology company announced today.

    Judge Essex (ITC) patents are not unenforceable due to unclean hands.
  19. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,891   +1,262

    The Virginia Court Findings in Samsung v. Rambus (Eastern Dist. Virgina 2006) 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 50007...
    Rambus' document retention policy was intended to target discoverable documents, including email messages, files on individual computers, network servers or floppy disks, corporate databases, backup tapes, system records and logs, and computers and disks. Id. at 50007 (p.48). Rambus also destroyed email archives and other electronic files. Id. at 50007 (p.49). In total, Rambus destroyed 1,054 boxes (2.7 million pages), not including the computer tapes it degaussed. Id. at 50007 (p.50).

    Business practice.

    Is anyone at RAMBust working on future tech development ? or is all the office space taken up by litigators and heavy-handed propagandists?
    I assume you do have a head office...and it is above ground.
  20. Hynix..help help help!!!

    Well, at least we know settlement talks will start off above 500 million...lol

    "Nothing has been discussed in detail. But we are open to all possibilities as in other patent disputes," Hynix spokesperson Park Hyun told The Korea Herald.

    “If Rambus suggests a reasonable alternative, we are willing to continue negotiations with them,” Hynix CEO Kim Jong-kap told reporters after an investor meeting.

    “Such issues are always open to settlement. It is just a matter of how much we can narrow the difference,” Kim added. “It depends on what kind of reasonable alternative Rambus can suggest.”

    "We had held talks with Rambus before, on and off, but the gap in our opinions is still considerable," Hynix CEO Kim Jong-kap told reporters on the sideline of an investor meeting.
  21. It doesn't sound like those 200+ engineers have been very busy.

    WHAT!!! lol

    • 867 Issued
    • 607 Applications
    (as of 12/31/09)
  22. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,891   +1,262

  23. Unethical...
    Business practice.

    are you sure you want to do this...LOL

    •513. In an April 1999 email exchange among Micron Vice President Bob Donnelly, Micron DRAM Marketing Manager Jeff Mailoux, and Micron JEDEC representatives Kevin Ryan and Terry Lee, an article was attached describing Samsung s plans to produce as much as forty millon Rambus devices in 1999. (R 1444 at 3). In response, Ryan complained that Samsung had "broken ranks with the other suppliers and sold their soul to the devil." (R 1444 at 1). One of the recipients of the email, Mike Seibert, responded that "(tJhese guys (Rambus) are big trouble for us all. If this thing gets into an oversupply mode with RDRAM things could get really ugly." (RX 1444 at 1). Seibert then asked Micron Vice-President Bob Donnelly if Samsung understood "what the Rambus/Intel biz model wil do to our autonomy?" (RX 1444 at 1). Vice-President Donnelly responded that he had "certainly made the point with the offcers that Intel. . . ultimately could control the DRAM industry." (R 1444 at 1).

    •526. In September 1996, Hyundai executive and SyncLink Consortium chairman Farhad Tabrizi wrote an email that expressed a concern that "the real motive of Intel is to control DRAM manufacturers. . . ." According to Tabrizi, Intel' s actions would give it "control of DRAMs and other CPU makers. We will become a foundry for all Intel activities and Intel would like and desires to do business with us then we may get a small share of their total demand. " (RX 778 at 1). Tabrizi concluded his email stating: "I urge you to please educate others and get their agreement to say 'NO TO RAMBUS AN NO TO INTEL DOMINATION. '"

    •529. At that same meeting, the assembled manufacturers agreed to hold a meeting of DRAM manufacturer executives in Japan in January 1997. (Tabrizi, Tr. 9041). Prior to the meeting, Tabrizi sent an email to other DRAM manufacturers that stated that the "Intel decision to go on a Rambus route was pure political and domination and control over the DRAM suppliers and not technical." (R 802 at 3; Tabrizi, Tr. 9041-42). He then stated: "As I have mentioned many times before, Intel does not make DRAMs, we do. And if all of us put our resources together, we do not have to go on this undesirable path. The path of control and domination by Intel." (R 802 at 3). He urged the DRAM manufacturers to "stick together on this matter. (R 802 at 3; Tabrizi, Tr. 9042-43).

    •533. In February 1998, Jeff Mailloux of Micron wrote an email to Tabrizi stating that Mailloux had spoken to a reporter for an industry publication called EE Times. (RX 1105 at 1). Mailloux stated that "I told him that at any density, and any process that is available in 1999 RDRAM is at least 30% cost adder for Micron " and then encouraged Tabrizi to call the reporter with Hyundai' s views. (RX 1105 at 1).
    •Long version: Jeff Mailloux, a senior Micron executive, subsequently wrote Farhad Tabrizi, his counterpart at Hyundai (now Hynix), stating, "I am tired of Intel or Rambus giving my customers cost estimates, so we called Anthony [Cataldo, author of an article in EE Times] and I talked to him for about an hour and gave him Micron's story on it and encouraged him to call other suppliers. In short I told him that at any density, and any process that is available in 1999, RDRAM is at least 30% cost adder for Micron. Just giving you a heads up and would encourage you to call him and give Hyundai's view on it." The email continued: "Here is what I basically told him, if you forward the article to anybody else, remove this part." After summarizing this conversation, Mailloux concluded his e-mail stating: "Anyhow, please visit me if I end up in jail, but felt it was important and timely enough to get our message out there that 5% is not realistic in our opinion."

    •535. In April 1998, Bert McComas, an industry consultant, gave an exclusive seminar for DRAM manufacturers about Intel's selection of RDRAM. (R 1138 at 1; Tabrizi, Tr. 9061-62). McComas pre-cleared his seminar invitation and list of topics with Tabrizi. (Tabrizi, Tr. 9064). 536. McComas s invitation asked its recipients not to forward the invitation to Rambus or Intel. (R 1138 at 1). 537. During his April 1998 seminar presentation to the DRAM manufacturers, McComas stated that a manufacturer that chose to build RDRAM was making a "guaranteed bad bet for margin enhancement " and he stated that RDRAM deepens the manufacturer s financial dilemma. (RX 1482 at 12 26). As a "possible strateg(y)," McComas suggested that DRAM manufacturers (t)ape out but do not fully productize or cost reduce" the RDRAM device, in an effort to "resist popular deployment" of RDRAM. (R 1482 at 34-35).

    •541. During his presentation at the June 1998 "Executive Summit " McComas suggested that the DRAM manufacturers share their RDRAM production plans to determine whether there would be a demand-supply imbalance. (Tabrizi, Tr. 9073-74).

    •553. Tabrizi admitted at trial that he had told Sang Park, then the President and Chief Operating Officer of Hyundai, that he wanted to "kill" Rambus and force RDRAM from the market. (Tabrizi, Tr. 9105-07). Tabrizi subsequently testified that what he meant by "killing Rambus was really just "Rambus suicide, (with) me watching on the sideline. " (Tabrizi Tr. 9109). In his June 2000 email to Park, Tabrizi stated: " (i)f Intel does not invest in us, I really want to ask you to let me go back to my old mode of RDRAM killing. I think we were very close to achieving our goal until you said we are absolutely committed to this baby." (R 1661 at 2).
    Hynix argues in the alternative that the court should reconsider its prior decision based on the Micron decision. Specifically, Hynix urges this court to adopt the Delaware court's conclusion that the facts show that Rambus anticipated litigation in September 1998 based on Joel Karp's "nuclear winter" memo. Rambus does not argue that reconsideration in this context is inappropriate. The court agrees that in this situation "the first court should be free to reconsider, and in deciding TSF 10

    whether to reconsider may take account of the advantage of consistent results." 18 Wright & Miller § 4404, at 79-80 (2d ed. 2002). But the court is not persuaded that its prior opinion is erroneous. The memo was in evidence (as Hynix Trial Exhibit 4) and subject to substantial testimony. Spoliation Trial Tr. 294:10-309:22 Oct. 18, 2005). The court discussed the nuclear winter memo in its findings. See Hynix, 2006 WL 565893 ¶¶ 53, 54. The court did not specifically discuss the memo in its conclusions of law, see id. at *22-*24, but the court gave it careful consideration – and decided that it did not show an intent to litigate. To begin, the Delaware court described the document as outlining what Mr. Karp believed Rambus's strategy should be "in the 'very unlikely' event that Intel cancelled its RDRAM production

    and moved instead to a competing technology." Micron, 2009 WL 54887 ¶ 24. The Delaware court's description alone suggests the tentative and contingent nature of Mr. Karp's thinking, and not Rambus's "anticipation of litigation."

    The remainder of the document's contents confirms the hesitant, contingent nature of Mr. Karp's planning. The memo begins with its "major assumption," described as, "Intel decides to cancel ramp and move away from Rambus to something else (DDR, SLDRAM, PC133, or something else that may be totally new, having been developed in secret by elves in the Black Forest at a cost of $10B, for example)." Roeder Decl., Ex. J at HTX 004.002. It is a rare memo that sets forth a company's policy and anticipated court actions and also begins its first sentence with an offthe-

    cuff reference to Black Forest elves. The memo continued: "I need to point out at this time that this is a very unlikely scenario, even for something that's purely hypothetical." Id. Nonetheless, the memo proceeded to outline a scenario in which Rambus's intellectual property could be used to persuade Intel to stick with Rambus. See id. To the extent the nuclear winter memo discussed suing DRAM makers, it did so in the context of maneuvering to put pressure on Intel to continue to support Rambus's DRAM designs. The memo concluded its assessment of suit against a DRAM maker by noting that for such a suit "costs would be high ($1.5-3.0M) since we would be fast-tracking everything." Id. at HTX 004.006

    (emphasis added). "The case could be prepared in 1-3 months." Id. (emphasis added). Beside being SF 11 ironically wrong, these estimates show both the speculative, contingent nature of Mr. Karp's planning and the amount of time and effort still needed before litigation would be something that Rambus considered "reasonably foreseeable" or "anticipated," i.e., "look[ed] forward to, look[ed] for

    (an uncertain event) as certain." Oxford English Dictionary (2d ed. 1989) (ninth definition of "anticipate, v."). Thus, the court remains unpersuaded that Rambus considered litigation "reasonably foreseeable" as of the date of Joel Karp's "nuclear winter" memo.

    Rambus's brief provides several different avenues to reverse Judge Robinson...

    1. Duty to preserve
    2. Prejudice
    3. Bad Faith
    4. Sanctions
    5. ACP
    6. Transfer
    7. Patents Unenforceable
  25. Ignoring the 6 factors in JW's opinion was not the best tactic by JR
    Here, by contrast, the path to litigation was neither clear nor immediate. Although Rambus began
    to plan a litigation strategy as part of its licensing strategy as early as February 1998, the institution of
    litigation could not be said to be reasonably probable because several contingencies had to occur before
    Rambus would engage in litigation:

    (1) The direct RDRAM ramp had to be sufficiently developed so as not to jeopardize RDRAM production

    (2) Rambus's patents covering non-RDRAM technology had to issue

    (3) Product samples from potentially infringing DRAM manufacturers had to be available in the market;

    (4) The non-compatible products had to be reverse engineered and claim charts made showing coverage of the actual products

    (5) Rambus's board had to approve commencement of negotiations with a DRAM manufacturer

    (6) The targeted DRAM manufacturer had to reject Rambus's licensing terms.
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