Rambus wins one, loses one in pre-trial moves

Memory designer Rambus earned a reprieve Friday in its battle with the German chip maker Infineon Technologies -- a three-week delay of its patent infringement suit to complete evidence-discovery and to depose Infineon's chief executive officer.

Judge Robert E. Payne of the US Federal Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ordered Infineon to conduct a full document search and provide full disclosure before the start of the trial against Infineon. Rambus claims documents provided after the close of discovery but before the trial allegedly contradict the testimony of Infineon executives. Infineon's CEO, Ulrich Schumacher, is also to be deposed before trial, the judge ordered.

The delay comes one day after a federal judge overseeing Rambus' case against Infineon issued an opinion unfavorable to Rambus, which in turn hurt Rambus' stock. On Thursday, Payne determined in a written memorandum of opinion that a narrow definition should be applied to disputed terms in the Rambus patent, essentially excluding certain Infineon products from the case.

Rambus' attorneys argued for a broader definition of the term 'bus' as any wires connecting memory devices, while the judge ruled it meant "a multiplexed set of signal lines used to transmit address, data and control information." Other elements tended to fall Infineon's way as well.

Rambus launched its suit against Infineon last year to capture licensing fees for its patents on synchronous dynamic and double-data rate random access memory (SDRAM and DDR RAM). The suit is only the latest of several suits, settlements and license agreements the chip designer has made with chip makers. Infineon countersued, accusing Rambus of violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations law.

Rambus asked Payne to issue a summary judgment against Infineon's counterclaim of racketeering, but the judge refused, allowing jurors to hear the accusations in court.

The trial has been closely watched by memory manufacturers and the PC industry in general, because if Rambus wins, all memory makers may have to pay Rambus royalties on SDRAM and DDR products.

When word of the judge's ruling emerged Thursday, Rambus' (RMBS) stock plunged US$11.26, or 31.9 percent, to $24.09. Amid a broader sell-off on the Nasdaq exchange, Rambus dropped another $6.56, or 27.2 percent, to $17.53 in late-day trading Friday.

Rambus, in Mountain View, California, can be reached at +1-650-944-8080, or via the Web at http://www.rambus.com/. Infineon, in Munich, can be reached at +49-89-234-0 or via the Web at http://www.infineon.com/.

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