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Against Monopoly

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Monopoly corrupts. Absolute monopoly corrupts absolutely.





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Rambus misbehavior faces new threat

Last September, David wrote about Rambus and its conviction by the FTC for illegal actions Link here . He went on to describe the behavior of the patent troll focused on computer ram chip makers. "In the ultimate submarine patent manuever, they not only patented an obvious idea and kept it secret, but then joined a standard making body, and without revealing they held a patent on the idea encouraged the body to agree on a standard that infringed their patent." Note that the FTC case first charged Rambus in June 2002.

Rambus has frequently been controversial. Here is a list of stories cited on TechDirt starting in 2001 Link here . Following the FTC determination, it can now look for further trouble, this time from the European authorities. The FTC finding provided the Europeans with the basis for a further complaint, based on the fact that the FTC determination would not cover ram that originated outside of the US and did not pass through the US. The Europeans have come up with a new descriptor for Rambus' illegal behavior as a "patent ambush", a new type of patent abuse Link here and Here .

The long history of this case suggests how difficult it is to get to closure. In Rambus' case, the threat of legal action has never been enough to deter. Even now, Rambus asserts that the FTC case is old news and they are appealing in the courts. Justice delayed.


Comments

Funny thing is that Rambus didn't have any "relevant patents" to disclose when SDRAM/DDR standards were discussed. They have invented fast memory in 1990 and they've been teaching memory manufacturers how to make it, under NDAs. They then have been invited to join JEDEC because of their expertise, seemingly. They have left a few years later after realizing that their inventions were being hijacked and incorporated into the standards, by the very memory producers they've been teaching. Everybody knew what Rambus invented but some didn't want to pay royalties. So they pretended not to remember where the inventions came from and accused Rambus of deceiving a standard-setting organization. And called in the government. Isn't that a wonderful way to strip somebody of patent rights? It's cheap too. That may have been the real reason behind JEDEC invitation.

Also funny is the fact that JEDEC continues to openly incorporate additional Rambus inventions into its new standards, DDR2, DDR3, GDDRx, etc. A decade after Rambus left. Nobody was able to come up with anything better, so they just take more of what works. US FTC started its case against Rambus at the urging of big memory companies, however it could only limit royalties on the old SDRAM/DDR standards. The mainstream has long moved to DDR2. Of course, memory companies wanted free unlimited use of all Rambus inventions. They didn't get it. The little they did get is under appeal. What will the EU Commissioners be left pointing to if FTC decision is overturned by a real court?

Indeed, there was a patent ambush. Only it was the other way around. Certain memory manufacturers ambushed Rambus in attempt to strangle it, so they could use its IP for free. Although unfortunately the "savings" didn't reach the consumer, as these companies were convicted by DOJ of memory price fixing. So for a long time consumers paid inflated prices for stolen, stripped down designs, without even knowing it. The memory in your computer could have been 10 times faster, just look at Rambus' XDR memory design. If there were no Rambus, it would quite possibly be 10 times slower. Is 1-4% royalty for inventions facilitating 100x faster memory - "unreasonable"?

Innovation is being strangled in front of your eyes, people. Wake up.

When two people negotiate a deal, both of them are trying to get the most out of it they can.

If I gain 5$ on the deal and you gain 1000$ on the deal, then we both win. It would not be "unreasonable" for me to accept that deal, but is it fair? If I consider it fair that we each get what we deserve, then it suddenly becomes very unreasonable for me to accept that deal.

You haven't given a good reason why it should be considered fair that Rambus receives royalties in this situation.

The tinyurl link leads to a 403 error. Please correct this broken link.

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