But the lawsuit against Micron and Hynix could encourage other companies to go through the judicial process if either of them won at trial, Cohen said. That should give Rambus plenty of impetus to settle quickly and cheaply.
Micron and Hynix have delayed court proceedings in the price-fixing case, in each case saying lawyers were sick. That could be a sign that settlement talks are going on behind the scenes, said Gregory Wong, an analyst with Forward Insights. The jury trial was due to begin in the Superior Court in San Francisco on Jan. 11, but a meeting will be held on Thursday to decide when the case will start.
Hynix and Micron are smaller companies and can't easily afford to keep pursuing the case, which points to quick settlement agreements, Wong said. The companies could likely reach agreements with Rambus before the case goes to trial, Wong said.
A Hynix spokesman declined comment, but Micron said it would pursue ongoing litigation against Rambus.
"We do not anticipate this [Samsung] settlement will have any impact on our ongoing litigation with Rambus," said Dan Francisco, a Micron spokesman. Rambus' allegations in the price-fixing case against Micron are baseless, he said.
"We look forward to the evidence being presented at trial that Intel and PC OEM customers ultimately chose DDR memory products, an open standard memory solution, based on the technology and its cost advantages over Rambus' RDRAM product," Francisco said.
Though settlements could be close at hand, Rambus' long history of litigation has attracted suspicion from memory makers, Insight 64's Brookwood said. However, the settlement agreement with Samsung validates Rambus' technologies that have otherwise been challenged by memory makers. As a leading memory maker, Samsung could help accelerate the adoption of Rambus technology in devices, Brookwood said.
Rambus recently has focused on low-power, high-speed memory interfaces for handheld devices that could run faster and cooler. As part of the settlement agreement, Samsung and Rambus will jointly focus on developing mobile memory technology. Having Samsung as a partner could ensure Rambus' innovations reach the mobile market, Brookwood said.
However, it's not a sure thing that settling legal matters with Hynix and Micron would have a big impact on Rambus. It takes years to get new technologies to market and the cases have left a bad taste in memory chip makers' mouths. The memory market for mobile devices is also very price sensitive, which could keep vendors from offering the memory types based on Rambus' technology, which tends to be higher priced.
But Rambus has clever technology that could give Samsung a competitive advantage over its rivals, Brookwood said. Samsung could use Rambus technology to get an early jump in new markets of niche mobile products that need faster performance.