After losing the battle to eke money out of Infineon Technologies AG for alleged copyright infringement of its patented computer chip technology, memory chip designer Rambus was found guilty of fraud and fined $US3.5 million in punitive damages last week as the judge closed the book on the case.
US District Judge Robert E. Payne ruled that Rambus had acted improperly when it obtained patents on chip designs which were being developed at the time by the JEDEC (Joint Electron Device Engineering Council), an industry group that sets standards for semiconductor products and technologies, Rambus said in a statement.
"This is fraud because JEDEC has specific rules saying you have to disclose patents and applications," John Desmarais, Infineon's trial attorney, said in an interview. "Rambus intentionally violated those rules" by not informing JEDEC that it had obtained patents for the standards being developed, he said.
The jury awarded the $3.5 million to Infineon because they were defrauded as a member of JEDEC, Desmarais said. He said the ruling may set a precedent allowing other members of JEDEC, which include Sun Microsystems, Motorola and Mitsubishi, to also file suit against Rambus. "I think it's a very important ruling for the industry," he added.
Rambus Chief Executive Officer Geoff Tate maintained that Infineon's charges were "completely baseless." Rules pertaining to JEDEC "have been shown to be confusing, conflicting, poorly communicated and generally not complied with by other JEDEC members," he said in the statement.
The company sued Infineon claiming that it had fringed upon its design patents in manufacturing SDRAM (synchronous dynamic random access memory) and DDR SDRAM (double data-rate SDRAM). Rambus cut licensing deals with other chipmakers, while Infineon, Micron Technology and South Korea's Hynix Semiconductor have held out on paying royalties to the company.