Rambus says FTC has dropped antitrust claims

Rambus said Thursday that the Federal Trade Commission has dropped its claim that the memory chip company violated antitrust laws in patenting technologies that were eventually incorporated into industry standards.

The company's shares jumped more than 13% in afternoon trading Thursday.

Rambus has fought several legal battles over chip patents, which generate most of its revenue. Chip manufacturers forced to pay royalties to Rambus have accused the company of quietly seeking rights to memory chip technology in the early 1990s even as it participated in an industry standards-setting body, thereby profiting from the body's decisions.

Los Altos, Calif.-based Rambus has consistently denied wrongdoing. The company's general counsel, Thomas Lavelle, said in a statement Thursday, "We are pleased to have finally put this matter behind us."

The FTC ruled in 2006 that Rambus had violated antitrust laws. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturned the decision in 2008 and sent the case back to the FTC, saying the agency had not come up with enough evidence to prove that Rambus had sought a monopoly or hurt competition.

"While we remain disappointed by the decision of the Court of Appeals, we of course respect the court's opinion and will move forward," Richard Feinstein, who head's the FTC's competition bureau, said in a statement Thursday.

Rambus won a related case in 2008 when a federal jury in San Jose, Calif., cleared the company of antitrust charges brought in a lawsuit by chipmakers Micron Technology of Boise, Idaho, Hynix Semiconductor of Icheon, South Korea, and Nanya Technology of Kueishan, Taiwan.

Like the FTC, those companies charged Rambus with deliberately withholding information from the Joint Electron Device Engineering Council, or JEDEC, which counted Rambus as a member as it established guidelines for the computer memory industry.

A federal judge affirmed the jury's decision this March, saying Rambus had no clear obligation to disclose pending or future patent applications while it held a spot on the council.

Dan Prywes, an outside lawyer representing JEDEC in the FTC's case, said the council still maintains that members must disclose their patent activities while serving on standards-setting committees.

Prywes contends the FTC made a convincing case that Rambus violated the policy. He said the agency's decision to drop its charges "does not undermine the principle that a company's deception during the standard-setting process can violate antitrust laws."

Rambus shares rose $1.45, or 13.4%, to $12.23.

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