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European Commission has send a statement of objections (SO) to Rambus, a leading developer of memory and interconnection technologies, accusing it of infringing European antitrust laws, claiming unreasonable royalties from industry players due to so called “patent ambush”.

Rambus claims it owns patents on key-technologies used in modern dynamic random access memory that is deployed in every single computer sold. The company is trying to force all makers of dynamic random access memory (DRAM) to pay royalties to Rambus for every single SDRAM, DDR SDRAM and DDR2 SDRAM chip sold. However, DRAM makers believe that Rambus obtained the patents by deceiving JEDEC organization.

The SO outlines the Commission’s preliminary view that Rambus engaged in intentional deceptive conduct in the context of the standard-setting process, for example by not disclosing the existence of the patents which it later claimed were relevant to the adopted standard. This type of behaviour is known as a “patent ambush”, claims a memo by the European Commission.

Against this background, the Commission provisionally considers that Rambus breached the EC Treaty’s rules on abuse of a dominant market position by subsequently claiming unreasonable royalties for the use of those relevant patents. The Commission’s preliminary view is that without its “patent ambush”, Rambus would not have been able to charge the royalty rates it currently does.

In parallel proceedings in the USA, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued an order in August 2006 and in February 2007 whereby it found that Rambus had engaged in illegal monopolisation and imposed a remedy applicable to U.S. patents and foreign patents to the extent that they relate to import or export of relevant products into or from the U.S.

“The issues raised by the European Commission include Rambus’ participation in JEDEC that ended over a decade ago. These are largely the same issues examined by a number of US courts, the Federal Trade Commission, and currently before the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. We are studying the Statement of Objections and plan to respond in due course,” commented Thomas Lavelle, senior vice president and general counsel at Rambus.

Rambus said it would present its response to the Commission’s statement of objections over the next several months.

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