Rambus and Intel renegotiate licensing pact

Rambus and Intel signed a five year cross-licensing agreement Monday, allowing Intel to use all patented Rambus technology, while giving Rambus permission to use Intel technology for its high-speed memory interfaces.

The previous agreement between the companies didn't expire; the two vendors decided to renegotiate it, Avo Kanadjian, vice president of Rambus worldwide marketing, said. The details of the agreement are confidential.

"My guess is that Intel renegotiated its contract with Rambus to reduce the level of contractual obligation to use Rambus memory," said Dean McCarron, an analyst with Scottsdale, Arizona-based Mercury Research Inc. "In exchange, they paid Rambus some money to get that."

Until recently, Intel's Pentium 4 processor could only be used with Rambus' RDRAM (Rambus Dynamic RAM) memory technology. Last week, Intel launched its first chip set allowing the Pentium 4 to be used with competing SDRAM (Synchronous Dynamic RAM) technology.

Another key change under the new agreement is that it's a cross-licensing agreement; previously, Intel had licensed Rambus technology, Kanadjian said. Rambus hopes to gain some leverage in networking technology from its end of the bargain. "Specifically, we are an interface company, so all patents relating to memory interface and communications interface to help us boost our IP (intellectual property) in the networking area is something we're interested in," Kanadjian said.

Intel holds many patents that would be useful to Rambus, McCarron said. "Intel has patents going back to DRAM, it also has a lot of memory controller type patents and patents related to memory caching," he said. "Generally, when you have a large company like an Intel . . . they tend to have patents that everybody uses."

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