The postponement of Micron Technology's patent trial against memory design startup Rambus could allow Micron to avoid a trial altogether.
The trial was set to begin in a Delaware US Federal court on 31 May, but last week was put off by five months to 31 October. The delay came in the wake of a ruling in the Rambus/Infineon trial that Rambus had committed fraud when it failed to disclose its patent activities as a member of JEDEC, the memory design organisation. Rambus is appealing the ruling.
Rambus claims that technology used in common memory standards such as SDRAM violates its patents, and is seeking to gather royalties from memory manufacturers like Micron. Micron and other manufacturers claim that Rambus should have disclosed that its patents covered SDRAM, which was meant to be an open standard.
Industry observers say that the postponement suits both Rambus and Micron. The ruling against Rambus could have hurt the company's chances in the Micron lawsuit if it had gone ahead right away. Micron, for its part, is waiting on a decision from the judge in the Infineon/Rambus trial, expected next month, which will declare whether Rambus' patents are unenforceable. If the decision is positive, Micron could ask for a similar ruling in its case.
At stake is the multi-billion-pound memory market. If Rambus is successful in pressing its claims it will have the ability to charge steep royalties, propelling it into the top ranks of chip designers. Rambus does not manufacture its own chips, but depends on licences.
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