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Rambus attacks Sega

The company expands its patent fight to Dreamcast consoles, and asks the US ITC to halt their importation and sale

Rambus, the next-generation PC memory specialist, has expanded the scope of its patent infringement action against Hitachi by bringing the case to the United States International Trade Commission (ITC) and adding console manufacturer Sega to the list of offenders.

The complaint, which was sent to the ITC on Thursday, requests the investigation of Hitachi's SDRAM (synchronous dynamic RAM) and DDR (double data rate) SDRAM products, SH series microprocessors and Sega's Dreamcast video game console, which uses SH processors. Rambus is seeking to halt the importation and sale of the targeted Hitachi and Sega products.

The move reiterates Rambus' 18 January patent infringement suit against Hitachi in a US district court, which accused Hitachi of violating patents related to the clock-timing technology used in semiconductor chips. Hitachi follows in the steps of Intel, which launched a patent infringement case against VIA Technologies, but then carried the fight to the ITC and added OEMs that use VIA products.

Industry observers have said Rambus may eventually have to take on all of the many manufacturers and OEMs that use clock-timing technology, or face accusations of singling out one company. Rambus has a vested interest in the lucrative console market, in particular, because it supplies memory technology for Sony's PlayStation2, a direct Dreamcast competitor.

Rambus shares have been taken for a rollercoaster ride in the past few days, as questions linger over whether the company's next-generation RDRAM memory is worth the price premium it demands. Intel has stood behind the memory, which it is building into its next-generation chips. "We believe [Rambus] provides the next generation memory technology," said an Intel representative.

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