U.S. Trade Body Steps into Rambus Patent Dispute

SAN FRANCISCO (04/20/2000) - The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) yesterday announced it is to investigate whether two Japanese companies have infringed patents held by U.S. chip design firm Rambus Inc.

The ITC has determined to begin an investigation of SDRAM (synchronous dynamic random access memory) devices and microprocessors used in computers and video game consoles, the trade organization said in a statement issued today.

The investigation stems from a complaint Rambus filed last month with the ITC against Hitachi Ltd. and Sega Enterprises Ltd. and their respective U.S. operations -- Hitachi Semiconductor (America) Inc., based in San Jose, California, and Sega of America Inc., based in San Francisco, California.

Rambus alleged that the Japanese companies have violated section 337 of the U.S. Tariff Act of 1930 in relation to the importing and sale of chips and products containing chips that violate Rambus patents. The U.S. firm has asked the ITC to issue a permanent exclusion order against such imported products along with a permanent cease-and-desist order.

In yesterday's statement, the ITC stressed that beginning an investigation doesn't mean that the organization has made any determinations concerning the merits of Rambus' complaint.

Debra Morriss, ITC administrative law judge, will take on the case and hold an evidentiary hearing. The judge will decide whether section 337 has been violated and her initial determination is then subject to an ITC review.

Neither Hitachi Semiconductor (America) or Sega of America was immediately available to comment today.

Rambus has already filed two lawsuits against Hitachi related to the alleged infringement of its patents.

In January, the U.S. computer memory designer filed a lawsuit against Hitachi and its U.S. subsidiary Hitachi Semiconductor (America) in the U.S. Federal District Court in Delaware in an attempt to try and prevent the sale of certain products, including memory chips and Hitachi's SH microprocessors, in the U.S. market. [See "UPDATE: Rambus Sues Hitachi over Patent Infringement," Jan. 19.]Earlier this month, Rambus also filed suit against Hitachi Ltd. in Germany.

[See "Rambus Extends Hitachi Patent Spat to Europe," April 12.]When Rambus filed its complaint with the ITC, the company also added Sega Enterprises along with Hitachi alleging Sega was using Hitachi's SH microprocessors in its Dreamcast games machine. [See "Rambus Targets Dreamcast Shipments in Patent Spat," March 24.]Rambus, in Mountain View, California, can be reached via the Internet at http://www.rambus.com/. Hitachi, based in Tokyo, can be reached via the Internet at http://www.hitachi.com/. Sega, also based in Tokyo, can be reached via the Internet at http://www.sega.com/.

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