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Friday, 24 June 2005

RAMBUS ACCUSED OF PATENT AMBUSH IN EUROPE TOO

The IPKat came across this on ft.com, the electronic arm of the Financial Times.

The European Commission is investigating the conduct of the US memory chip designer Rambus, over allegations that the company is laying a so-called “patent ambush” a form of competition abuse in which a company takes part in setting an industry standard without declaring that the new standard infringes its patents. Once the standard is agreed, the company can then demand royalties from other groups which have no choice but to follow the industry standard.

The Federal Trade Commission has been pursuing similar allegations in the US. In 2002 it accused Rambus of deceiving an industry standards body, JEDEC, with the aim of getting a computer chip technology covered by one of its patents adopted as an industry standard. This reportedly allowed Rambus to claim subsequent royalties from chipmakers such as Hitachi, Samsung and Toshiba. However, in a surprise ruling last year, the FTC's case against Rambus was dismissed (though that decision is under appeal).

The IPKat is a little puzzled by all this. It seems that (i) Rambus' patents were unpublished at the time the standards were agreed, or (ii) they were published but no-one thought of doing a patent search to see if the industry standard infringed anyone's rights, or (iii) a patent search was done but no-one found Rambus' patents. Merpel says, never mind about this: I'm just looking forward to "Return of the JEDEC" ...

More on ambushes here (for readers with strong nerves), here and here

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