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Rambus and Infineon settle patent dispute

Chip interface designer Rambus and rival Infineon Technologies yesterday announced that they have settled all legal claims between them, including a long-running patent dispute over memory chips.22 Mar 2005

Under the agreement, Infineon, Europe's third largest chip manufacturer, has been granted a worldwide licence to Rambus' patent portfolio. It will be treated as a "most-favoured" customer, and has been given an option to obtain certain other licences in the future.In exchange, Infineon will pay a quarterly license fee of $5.85 million for two years. After that time, and only if Rambus enters into additional specified licensing agreements with certain other memory chip manufacturers, Infineon will make additional quarterly payments, which may accumulate to a maximum of a further $100 million.Infineon has also given Rambus a fully-paid perpetual licence for memory interfaces.Rambus, which designs, develops and licenses high-bandwidth chip-connection technologies, sued Infineon in 2000. Rambus claimed that Infineon used technologies covered by Rambus patents without a licence.Separate actions were also raised against Hyundai Electronics (now Hynix) and Micron Technology.In the years since the filing, the case has grown ever more complex, with counterclaims, accusations of fraud and antitrust investigations all playing their part.Matters came to a head in December last year, when Infineon filed a motion to dismiss the case, alleging litigation misconduct on the part of Rambus, including the wilful destruction of evidence.Earlier this month, US District Court Judge Robert E Payne upheld Infineon's "unclean hands" argument and dismissed the patent action. One claim remained in the case, a claim by Infineon against Rambus for the purported violation of the California Business and Profession Code.At the time, Rambus senior vice president and general counsel John Danforth said that the company felt it would have a strong case on appeal, but a settlement appears to have been the preferred option.The settlement also ends an antitrust case brought by Rambus in May last year against four rivals – at least insofar as it relates to Infineon and its former parent company, Siemens.The case, which alleges that the companies engaged in a concerted and unlawful effort to eliminate competition and stifle innovation in the memory market, will continue against Hynix Semiconductor and Micron Technology.