13 December 2013Patents

Rambus and Micron end mammoth patent dispute

A pair of US technology companies which were locked in a 13-year patent battle have finally settled their dispute and agreed to a multi-million dollar licensing agreement.

Micron Technology, a semi-conductor company, has agreed to pay Rambus $280 million for the use of its patents.

The agreement, which will stretch over seven years and is capped at $10 million per quarter, will give Idaho-based Micron the right to use any Rambus patent for the manufacture of certain integrated circuit products.

As part of the settlement, Micron and Rambus have resolved all outstanding patent and antitrust claims.

Rambus, a semiconductor technology company, was set-up in 1990.

Its plan was to license its Rambus Dynamic Random Access Memory technology, (RDRAM) to manufacturers and to achieve adoption of RDRAM across the industry.

DRAM is a type of random-access memory that stores different parts of data in a separate capacitor within an integrated circuit. It is commonly used in technologies including computers and smartphones.

As a new technology called synchronous DRAM (SDRAM) increased in popularity, the company demanded license fees and initiated potential infringement lawsuits against manufacturers using the method.

Rambus believed its RDRAM inventions were broad enough to encompass the new technology, which is synchronised with a computer’s system bus, a collection of wires for transmitting data from one part of a computer to another.

Since its formation, Rambus has sued and settled with major players in the memory chip industry including Samsung Electronics, which agreed to pay $900 million to use its patents.

“This milestone agreement puts years of legal disputes behind both companies and opens doors for future cooperation,” said Ron Black, president and chief executive officer at Rambus.

“We continue to focus on developing innovative technology and furthering our more open, collaborative relationship with the broader industry.”

Mark Durcan, chief executive at Micron said the industry was at an “important juncture” with the emergence of new technologies and that Micron was “ideally positioned to capitalise.”

Micron will have the option to extend the initial term of the agreement for additional renewal periods.

The agreement also covers Japanese company Elpida, which Micron acquired earlier this year.

Elpida was a merger of NEC's, Hitachi's, and Mitsubishi's memory chip businesses. Its DRAM products are used in products including the iPhone and iPad.

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