Oracle Accuses Micron of Overcharging Sun Microsystems

Oracle Corp. sued Micron Technology Inc., alleging it overcharged Sun Microsystems Inc., which Oracle acquired, by conspiring to fix prices for computer memory chips.

Micron and other makers of dynamic random access memory, or DRAM, artificially inflated the price of chips they sold to Sun, Oracle claimed in an antitrust complaint filed Sept. 24 in federal court in San Jose, California.

The case is partly based on a 2002 U.S. Justice Department investigation of price fixing in the memory-chip industry that led to claims against four companies and 16 people who have been fined as much as $731 million. Micron cooperated with U.S. officials in exchange for not being charged with a crime, according to Oracle’s complaint.

The memory manufacturers “conspired to control production capacity, raise prices or slow their decline, allocate customers, and otherwise unlawfully overcharge their DRAM customers,” Oracle said in its complaint.

Dan Francisco, a spokesman for Boise, Idaho-based Micron, declined to comment.

Ichon, South Korea-based Hynix Semiconductor Inc., Suwon, South Korea-based Samsung Electronics Co., Tokyo-based Elpida Memory Inc., and Neubiberg, Germany-based Infineon Technologies AG are indentified by Oracle as co-conspirators in the case. Those companies aren’t named as defendants.

Private Lawsuits

In 2007, Micron paid $80 million to settle separate private antitrust lawsuits filed over U.S. sales of DRAM from 1999 to 2002. Oracle’s claims are based on DRAM sales made to Sun, which Oracle acquired in January.

From 1998 to 2002, Sun bought more than $2 billion worth of DRAM in the U.S. for its servers and work stations, according to the complaint. Oracle seeks to recover unspecified damages for violations of federal and California antitrust laws, and the company claims those damages should be tripled according to those laws.

Hynix is the world’s second-largest computer-memory chipmaker and Micron is the biggest U.S. producer of computer-memory chips.

The case is Oracle America Inc. v. Micron Technology Inc., 10-04340, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).

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