FTC Finds Violation In Rambus' Standards-Setting Activities
The Federal Trade Commission has determined that computer technology developer Rambus, Inc. unlawfully monopolized the markets for four computer memory technologies that have been incorporated into industry standards for dynamic random access memory, in the Matter of Rambus Incorporated, FTC Docket No. 9302.
The Commission’s unanimous opinion states, “We find that Rambus’s course of conduct constituted deception under Section 5 of the FTC Act. Rambus’s conduct was calculated to mislead JEDEC members by fostering the belief that Rambus neither had, nor was seeking, relevant patents that would be enforced against JEDEC-compliant products. . . . Under the circumstances, JEDEC members acted reasonably when they relied on Rambus’s actions and omissions and adopted the SDRAM and DDR SDRAM standards.”
“Rambus withheld information that would have been highly material to the standard-setting process within JEDEC,” the opinion continues. “JEDEC expressly sought information about patents to enable its members to make informed decisions about which technologies to adopt, and JEDEC members viewed early knowledge of potential patent consequences as vital for avoiding patent hold-up. Rambus understood that knowledge of its evolving patent position would be material to JEDEC’s choices, and avoided disclosure for that very reason.”
“Through its successful strategy, Rambus was able to conceal its patents and patent applications until after the standards were adopted and the market was locked in,” states the opinion. “Only then did Rambus reveal its patents – through patent infringement lawsuits against JEDEC members who practiced the standard.”
The remedy sought by the agency would bar Rambus from enforcing existing licensing agreements, along with some patents. “Questions remain regarding how the Commission can best determine the appropriate remedy,” the opinion states. “Now that the Commission has found, and determined the scope of liability, the Commission believes it would exercise its broad remedial powers most responsibly after additional briefings and, if necessary, oral argument devoted specifically to remedial issues.”
The ruling reportedly sent Rambus's shares down more than 25 percent.