Rambus has announced it has signed a patent licensing agreement with Japan's Toshiba regarding technology used in memory chips.
Rambus said the deal covers Toshiba's synchronous dynamic random access memory (SDRAM), double data rate SDRAM (DDR SDRAM), fast cycle RAM (FCRAM) and the memory controllers that interface with them. US-based Rambus also said the royalties it is collecting for Toshiba's memory chips are greater than those for its proprietary Rambus DRAM (RDRAM) chips.
The deal is likely to send shock waves through the semiconductor industry because it opens the door to Rambus potentially collecting royalty payments from every company that makes DRAM chips -- the mainstay of the world's computer memory business.
The SDRAM specification was drawn up jointly by chip manufacturers and standardised by the Joint Electron Device Engineering Council (JEDEC) -- a US committee under the Electronic Industries Association that is used by the semiconductor industry for standardisation issues. DDR technology was developed by a group of eight major memory manufacturers including Fujitsu, NEC, Toshiba, Hitachi, Mitsubishi Electric, Texas Instruments, Samsung Electronics and Hyundai Electronics Industries.
The technologies so far have been available, royalty free, to the semiconductor industry as part of an effort to ensure common standards between different manufacturers and between memory and its associated controller chips.
Rambus first asserted it held patents over some of the technology used in the chips when a legal spat erupted with Hitachi earlier this year. Frustrated that the Japanese company was not making chips to Rambus' own proprietary standard even though it had signed a license to do so, Rambus announced it was suing the company for patent infringement.