FTC stays part of Rambus case

Federal agency amends part of its initial ruling, now allowing the company to collect royalties for past uses of its memory chips

A U.S. agency has modified its own ruling, freeing Rambus to collect royalties for past uses of its memory chip technology despite charges that the company holds a monopoly in the industry, the company said Monday.

Rambus applauded the ruling but said it still planned to appeal the remainder of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission's February decree. The FTC had originally ruled that Rambus would have to license its DRAM chips to other vendors and established strict caps on the amount of royalty fees Rambus could charge chip manufacturers.

On Monday, FTC regulators backed off that decision, agreeing to stay certain aspects of the ruling as long as Rambus filed for review in an appeals court. The decision will now affect only "forward-looking" business so Rambus may collect standard royalties for past uses of its technology and may keep similar royalty payments it has already collected, according to a statement by company spokesman Tom Lavelle, senior vice president and general counsel for Rambus.

The FTC did not return calls for comment and did not have information on the stay posted on its Web site.

The change came shortly before a 60-day countdown expired. Without the stay, on April 2, Rambus would have had to limit its sales royalties to 0.25 percent for SDRAM products, 0.5 percent for DDR SDRAM products, 0.5 percent for SDRAM memory controllers, and 1.0 percent for DDR SDRAM memory controllers. The decision did not cover DDR2 SDRAM or other post-DDR standards set by the Joint Electron Device Engineering Council.

The case against Rambus began in June 2002, when the FTC alleged that Rambus had convinced industry groups to declare a standard technology for the memory used in PCs, servers, printers, and cameras without admitting that it owned the patents to those technologies.