FTC Says Rambus Monopolized Memory Tech Market

from the setbacks dept

The FTC has announced that it unanimously ruled Rambus did indeed break antitrust rules by misleading an SDRAM standards organization -- capping a fight that's stretched back several years, and centered on allegations that the company fought for certain technologies to be included in the standard, only revealing it had patented them after the fact when it started demanding high licensing fees for their use. The FTC hasn't yet decided on a punishment, and Rambus says it will appeal if it feels a remedy is too harsh (which would seem to indicate an appeal is almost inevitable). It's possible the company will have to pay significant damages, and apparently one FTC lawyer has said the company should ditch its royalty demands. While the ruling should give the company's critics more ammunition, be sure to check back for the comments to this post, where the roving pack of rabid Rambus investors will undoubtedly come and insult us, allege a hidden agenda, and explain how the FTC is part of some grand conspiracy aligned against them and the company.


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  1.  
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    Ben, Aug 2nd, 2006 @ 8:31am

    life goes on

    Can't wait to see the remedy on this one. think it will help out the customers at all?

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2006 @ 9:07am

    Re: life goes on

    Yes, it will help the consumers... on one condition.

    If the remedy includes the forfeiture of the patents.

    If RAMBUS cannot or will not behave with its patents, then it doesnt deserve them. Or more to the point, it deserves to lose them.

    Of course, that's an opinion, and all opinions stink.

     

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  3.  
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    Nilt, Aug 2nd, 2006 @ 9:12am

    What remedy would be appropriate?

    We have to keep in mind the current price of RAM. Consumers weren't harmed in the long run, I don't think. Those "harmed" would be those businesses who paid what amounts to protection money.

    I suppose one could say that led to higher prices but, really, how much lower would they be?

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2006 @ 9:30am

    Re: What remedy would be appropriate?

    "Consumers weren't harmed in the long run, I don't think. "

    So it's alright with you if I stab you repeatedly in the leg, as long as ten years from now you'll be able to walk (still/again)?

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2006 @ 9:48am

    Re: What remedy would be appropriate?

    it could always get cheaper.

     

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  6.  
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    Rick, Aug 2nd, 2006 @ 10:05am

    Huh?

    How is it the FTC can see a monopoly is harmful, but the FCC can't see the same issues with the telcos?

    This country is being held back in a 'new' stone age by our 'legal' monopolies - it's time to stop them.

     

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  7.  
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    Nilt, Aug 2nd, 2006 @ 10:15am

    Re: Re: What remedy would be appropriate?

    "So it's alright with you if I stab you repeatedly in the leg, as long as ten years from now you'll be able to walk (still/again)?"

    But the point was that it's the manufacturers who were harmed. Consumers, really, weren't harmed. Prices have continued to drop for some time now.

    I'm not defending Rambus here, by the way. I think they're as bad as any patent troll. I just also don't see what remedy could really be made that would have any real impact at this stage. Hopefully I'm wrong. :-D

     

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  8.  
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    Ripped-off consumer, Aug 2nd, 2006 @ 10:38am

    Re: Re: Re: What remedy would be appropriate?

    I don't follow your comment at all. Manufacturers do not purchase memory for themselves, but to package and sell to consumers.

    As a consumer I paid a higher price for the memory as the License royalty cost will be directly passed by the manufacturer to me.

    Since the royalty based upon illicit patents was illegal, I have been harmed, possibly several time. Direct damage due to more expensive computers I purhased, higher cost of upgrade memory I purchased at retail. And then the higher hardware costs of the the servers for services that I get (any pay for). All in all, this would be a company that needs to be taken to the woodshed and spanked into the next timezone.

     

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  9.  
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    Greg, Aug 2nd, 2006 @ 10:39am

    Hey, guys: consumers weren't harmed, because no one used RDRAM anyway, right? :P

    I can't say I expected anything great from Rambus, considering their history of expensive garbage products and litigiousness, but this is waaaaay worse than even my low expectations.

     

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  10.  
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    TheDeadlyEyebrow, Aug 2nd, 2006 @ 10:40am

    Think of the Engineers

    I would like to bring up the possibly obvious fact that it is the Business/Management of the company that acted in an irresponsibly and suicidal manner. The forfeiture of the patents would not be fair to the Rambus engineers that worked hard to create the patented technology. Punish the capitalist pigs, but leave the geeks unscathed.

     

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  11.  
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    Monarch, Aug 2nd, 2006 @ 10:43am

    Re: What remedy would be appropriate?

    What about those of us that were paying $100 a meg for RAM back in the Mid 90's. I'd sure like to get a refund on some of that money. If only I'd kept receipts from then to sue Rambus now!!!

     

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  12.  
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    DittoBox, Aug 2nd, 2006 @ 11:16am

    Re: Re: Re: What remedy would be appropriate?

    "I'm not defending Rambus here, by the way. I think they're as bad as any patent troll. I just also don't see what remedy could really be made that would have any real impact at this stage. Hopefully I'm wrong. :-D"

    If the government doesn't prosecute known criminals, or criminal activity of business entities when they break the law then what incentive does other unscrupulous companies have to not break the same laws?

    Believe it or not, there are at times (few and far between) reasons why the book should be thrown at people or companies. What irks me is that the book is thrown usually only at small business' and not large corporations who generally only get a slap on the wrist.

    Money talks I guess.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2006 @ 11:20am

    "I don't follow your comment at all. Manufacturers do not purchase memory for themselves, but to package and sell to consumers."

    That's like saying food comes from the grocery store, so you don't need to care about farmers. Manufacturers don't purchase memory for consumers, either. They build it, and for the right to build it (in any quantity) they had to first pay unfair liscensing fees.

    I do understand where you're coming from, though. Even with a $100Million liscense fee, when spread over 100Million units, only amounts to only $1 per piece, 100% of which was passed on to individual consumers.

    In this way no individual consumer was harmed that greatly, but manufacturers had to pay a lot of the money they earned to rambus, and they may have sold more if they were able to have the price just a little lower.

     

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  14.  
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    Kevin McFerrin, Aug 2nd, 2006 @ 11:28am

    Not about RDRAM

    Greg, it's not about whether anyone used RDRAM. It's about DDR SDRAM. The claim was that Rambus people sat on the engineering panel for the standards body that created the official standard for DDR SDRAM (which at the time would have been a competitor to RDRAM). While on the panel, they intentionally convinced the panel to include in the DDR standard some technology/IP that Rambus had already patented, but they didn't disclose that they held these patents. The purpose was so that Rambus could demand royalties from people who make RDRAM (which Rambus designed) and people who make DDR SDRAM (which was designed by a panel to be an open memory standard), which would ensure Rambus made piles of money regardless of which memory standard won out in the end.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Default, Aug 2nd, 2006 @ 12:11pm

    Protecting themselves

    Anyone catch Techdirt trying to predict poster lashings... I think it's funny when they try to predict what the poster will post.
    Oh, and for those RAMBUS sympathisers... take this, and that, oh yeah, you like that?

    !first (boolean not first)

     

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  16.  
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    Xcetron, Aug 4th, 2006 @ 10:17pm

    Not necessarily related to the topic at hand, but just wanted to point out something.

    This country has gotten to a point where people are just sueing each other because they dont like them or because theyre greedy and want some more extra cash. Almost nothing is based on rights and wrongs anymore. People continue to set up unreasonable laws then later other people find loopholes around them so they come up with even more laws.

    I think it would safe to say that half of the problems we have now occured because of the legal system we built. So doesnt it make sense to just start over instead of making more mistakes?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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