Rambus claims against Infineon cleared to proceed

A trial date has been set for Rambus' patent infringement lawsuit against Infineon Technologies, as a federal judge denied an Infineon request to delay the trial pending the outcome of a separate Rambus trial with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Rambus said Thursday.

The two companies have been embroiled in litigation for several years over charges that Infineon and other makers of DRAM (dynamic RAM) chips are infringing upon patents held by Rambus. Infineon and other DRAM companies such as Micron Technology and Hynix Semiconductor contend that Rambus deceived a standards-setting body into adopting technology patented by Rambus for the DRAM standard.

Rambus had been convicted of fraud by a jury in an earlier trial, but that decision was overturned on appeal last year, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear any further appeal. This has cleared the way for Rambus to proceed with patent infringement lawsuits against the DRAM vendors. Analysts believe those suits have a much better chance of succeeding than appeared a few years ago.

The FTC is in the middle of an effort to determine whether Rambus is guilty of unfair competition, and that process is expected to continue for several more weeks. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, where the patent infringement trial is to take place, decided Thursday that the two cases are separate and that the FTC's decision won't have an impact on the patent infringement case.

However, the Virginia court also decided Thursday to limit the scope of Rambus' patent claims to four specific claims, culled from 50 patent claims Rambus had submitted in its lawsuit. Information regarding the nature of the specific claims was not immediately available.

Lawyers for Rambus would naturally try to submit as many claims as possible when pursuing their case, said Erach Desai, an analyst with American Technology Research, in a research note distributed Friday. But the key areas in which Rambus alleges the DRAM vendors are infringing on its patents probably are covered in the four remaining claims, he said.

Rambus's stock (RMBS) has soared over the past year since the appeals court ruling, climbing from below $10 one year ago to a Friday closing price of US$35.20, up $1.21 from Thursday's close on the Nasdaq.

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