Rambus Accuses Broadcom, Nvidia of Infringing Patents

Rambus Inc., which sells technology used in computer memory, filed a patent-infringement complaint today against Broadcom Corp., Nvidia Corp. and other chip companies in an effort to boost royalties from its inventions.

Broadcom is infringing patents through the sales of its so-called dynamic random access memory, or DRAM, controllers, the semiconductors that help link the main source of memory with the rest of an electronic device, Rambus said. Other companies named by Rambus include Freescale Semiconductor Inc., LSI Corp. and STMicroelectronics NV.

A victory may result in a ban on the import of chips found to infringe patents and extend the reach of Rambus’s patents to communications devices and other electronics besides personal computers, where it has usually sought legal headway. Rambus, which gets most of its sales from royalties, has spent the past decade suing companies that refused to license its patents.

“We have been attempting to license these companies for some time to no avail,” Rambus Chief Executive Officer Harold Hughes said in a statement. One company “frankly told us that the only way they would get serious is if we sued them.”

He didn’t identify which company.

Rambus filed the complaint today with the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington, which has the power to ban imports of products found to infringe U.S. patents.

Separately, it filed civil suits seeking cash damages against Broadcom, Freescale, LSI, Nvidia, MediaTek Inc. and STMicroelectronics. Those cases are likely to be put on hold until the ITC case is completed.

‘Victim’ Stance

Sunnyvale, California-based Rambus said it first approached Broadcom in 2006 about licensing the patents. Broadcom said it wanted to await the outcome of an antitrust investigation by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, and complained to the agency that it was a “direct victim” of Rambus. An appeals court later ruled that Rambus had not undermined competition in the memory-chip market.

“Broadcom continued its knowing infringement of Rambus’s patents even after the FTC’s remedy order was issued and later vacated,” Rambus said.

The products are in Broadcom’s broadband communications, mobile and wireless, and network infrastructure lines, according to the complaint.

Separately, Rambus is awaiting an appeals court ruling in cases involving Hynix Semiconductor Inc. and Micron Technology Inc. and is in the midst of an appeal filed by Nvidia over computer-graphics chips. Rambus got more than 95 percent of its $113 million in revenue last year from royalties.

Bill Blanning, a spokesman for Irvine, California-based Broadcom, and Robert Hatley, a spokesman for Austin-based Freescale, didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Hector Marinez, a spokesman for Santa Clara, California-based Nvidia, declined to comment.

Representatives of LSI, STMicroelectronics and MediaTek also declined to comment.

The case is Rambus Inc. v. Broadcom Corp., 10cv5437, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (San Francisco).

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