Standards organizations weigh in on Rambus case

A Boston law firm has filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of six major standard-setting organizations in the dispute between Rambus and Infineon Technologies AG, claiming the appeals court's decision to vacate the judgement of fraud against Rambus will have a substantial impact on the way technology standards are determined.

The law firm of Lucash, Gesmer, and Updegrove LLP announced Wednesday that it filed a brief on behalf of the IMS Global Learning Consortium Inc., OpenGIS Consortium, PCI Industrial Computers Manufacturers Group, and The Open Group. Global Platform Inc. and the Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA) were also part of the brief, but are not clients of Lucash, Gesmer, and Updegrove, said Andy Updegrove, a partner with the firm.

The groups claim that failure to penalize Rambus for withholding information about its patents while it participated in discussions with the Joint Electron Devices Engineering Council (JEDEC) to determine the next-generation of memory standards makes enforcement of standards-setting rules almost impossible, Updegrove said. In January, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit vacated a jury's judgement that Rambus fraudulently attempted to obtain patents on memory standards it helped to influence.

The court's decision centered around the judgment that JEDEC's policy's were poorly written and constructed, and Rambus could not be held liable for failing to disclosure patents if there was any ambiguity as to whether that was required.

"The court said, 'If you can figure out how to stay just outside the rules, we won't sanction willfully antisocial behavior,' " Updegrove said.

The groups are trying to inform the court that despite the significant impact the Rambus dispute has already had on the disclosure policies of standards-setting organizations, if the courts are unwilling to prosecute violations of those policies, companies won't want to take the risk of participating in those groups, he said.

Standards-setting organizations are often composed of groups of competitors that agree to work together on common problems such as ways to make their products interoperable or simplify manufacturing processes. A certain level of trust is required between those companies for the process to work, Updegrove said.

Infineon filed a brief to the court of appeals seeking a rehearing in the case on Feb. 26, and the friend-of-the-court brief supports Infineon's filing, he said.

This brief is not related to the ongoing case between Rambus and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which is headed for trial after an FTC judge denied a request to skip the trial and head directly to the punishment phase.

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