Rambus sues Hitachi over patent infringement

Demands Hitachi stop making range of 'infringing' DRAM, DIMM and microprocessor products; more could follow

Rambus Tuesday filed suit against Hitachi for alleged wilful patent infringement on several semiconductor products, seeking injunctions against the manufacture, use and sale of several memory and microprocessor products, and seeking punitive damages from the Japanese electronics giant.

The affected products are PC100 SDRAM, PC133 SDRAM, DDR SDRAM, SGRAM, and DIMM modules as well as SH-2, SH-3, SH-4 and SH-5 microprocessors. The patents in question date from 1990 and cover technology for synchronous memory devices and methods of controlling such devices.

The products names in the suit are not compatible with Rambus' proprietary RDRAM specification. Hitachi has licensed RDRAM and the and received the technology but has not produced Rambus products.

Rambus says the suit follows Hitachi's failure to discuss an infringement analysis of Hitachi products, presented to the Japanese company last year.

The suit could be a harbinger of similar actions against other semiconductor manufacturers, such as Samsung, Micron Technologies, Infineon, IBM and Intel. Intellectual property law implicates companies who produce technology similar to the patent, even if the technology was developed independently -- meaning that some companies could have unwittingly infringed on Rambus' patents.

The four patents involved in the suit were issued in 1999, but for legal purposes date back to 1990, when Rambus applied for them.

Rambus designs, develops and licenses high-bandwidth chip-connection technologies aimed at enabling semiconductor memory devices to keep pace with faster generations of processors and controllers. Its technology is licensed to more than 30 semiconductor companies, including Intel.

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