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Archived updates for Tuesday, February 06, 2007

FTC Sets Maximum Royalty Rates for Rambus Memory Technology

On February 5, 2007 the U.S. Federal Trade Commission issued its final order in the Rambus matter. In addition to barring Rambus from making misrepresentations or omissions to standard-setting organizations, the order also
  • requires Rambus to license its SDRAM and DDR SDRAM technology and sets maximum allowable royalty rates it can collect for the licensing,

  • bars Rambus from collecting or attempting to collect more than the maximum allowable royalty rates from companies that may already have incorporated its DRAM technology, and

  • requires Rambus to employ a Commission-approved compliance officer to ensure that Rambus’s patents and patent applications are disclosed to industry standard-setting bodies in which it participates.
According to the Opinion of the Commission:

"Royalty rates unquestionably are better set in the marketplace, but Rambus’s deceptive conduct has made that impossible. Although we do not relish imposing a compulsory licensing remedy, the facts presented make that relief appropriate and indeed necessary to restore competition. . . .

"[W]e find that a maximum royalty rate of .5% for DDR SDRAM, for three years from the date the Commission’s Order is issued and then going to zero, is reasonable and appropriate. We also find that a corresponding .25% maximum rate for SDRAM is appropriate. Halving the DDR SDRAM rate reflects the fact that SDRAM utilizes only two of the relevant Rambus technologies, whereas DDR SDRAM uses four. . . . "

In June 2002, the FTC charged Rambus with violating federal antitrust laws by deliberately engaging in a pattern of anticompetitive acts to deceive an industry-wide standard-setting organization, which caused or threatened to cause substantial harm to competition and consumers. The Commission complaint alleged that Rambus participated in the Joint Electron Device Engineering Council (JEDEC), a standard-setting organization that “maintained a commitment to avoid, where possible, the incorporation of patented technologies into its published standards, or at a minimum to ensure that such technologies, if incorporated, will be available to be licensed on royalty-free or otherwise reasonable and non-discriminatory terms.”

According to the FTC complaint, Rambus nonetheless participated in JEDEC’s DRAM standard-setting activities for more than four years without disclosing to JEDEC or its members that it was actively working to develop, and possessed, a patent and several pending patent applications that involved specific technologies ultimately adopted in the standards.
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