Judge postpones Rambus patent-infringement trials

From CNET News.com: Judge Ronald M. Whyte of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued an order indefinitely postponing the long-running cases against Hynix Semiconductor, Micron Technology, Nanya Technology, and Samsung Electronics, pending appeals of earlier court decisions.

Shares of Los Altos, Calif.-based Rambus, which licenses technology for high-speed memory architectures, plunged 22 percent in after-hours trading, or $2, to $6.95.

The defendants had argued for the delay after Judge Sue L. Robinson, in the U.S. District Court in Delaware, ruled on January 9 that evidence "spoilation" occurred when Rambus allegedly destroyed important information related to the case that could be used against it. Robinson's decision rendered Rambus' patents unenforceable.

The lawsuits, which were filed in 2000 and scheduled to go to trial on February 17, allege that the defendants infringed Rambus patents in producing DDR DRAM--the most common type of memory in PCs today--as well as in making SDRAM and DDR2 DRAM. The vast majority of PCs and servers produced in the past several years use one of these types of memory, and variants of DDR are expected to be incorporated into PCs for the next several years.

The defendants had previously argued that Rambus' patents were invalid because the company failed to disclose that it held patents on memory technology while a member of a standards-setting organization that was developing SDRAM standards in the 1990s. Rambus claimed that the rules of that group didn't specifically require the company to disclose its patents, and that it never proposed that the standard incorporate its technology.

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