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Rambus, a developer of memory and interface technologies, announced last week that the US Court of Appeals for the DC circuit has overturned the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) decisions regarding Rambus, and remanded the matter back to the FTC for further proceedings consistent with the Court’s opinion.

Back in 2006 the commission found that Rambus withheld information that would have been highly material to the standard-setting process within JEDEC. JEDEC expressly sought information about patents to enable its members to make informed decisions about which technologies to adopt, and JEDEC members viewed early knowledge of potential patent consequences as vital for avoiding patent hold-up. As a consequence, FTC believes, Rambus illegally obtained key patents on technologies used in today’s dynamic random access memory (DRAM) chips.

In its unanimous decision released last week, the appellate court determined the FTC failed to demonstrate that Rambus inflicted any harm on competition.

“We hold, therefore, that the Commission failed to demonstrate that Rambus’ conduct was exclusionary and thus to establish its claim that Rambus unlawfully monopolized the relevant markets,” the court is reported to have said.

In addition, regarding the chance of further proceedings on remand, the Court expressed “serious concerns about the strength of the evidence relied on to support some of the Commission’s crucial findings”.

The FTC brought anti-trust charges against Rambus in 2002. A three-month trial was held in the spring of 2003 before Chief Administrative Law Judge Stephen McGuire, who issued his initial decision exonerating Rambus with over 1600 findings of fact in its favor in early 2004. The FTC’s own Complaint Counsel appealed the decision of the fact-finder to the full Commission, which reversed the ALJ and found Rambus liable for violating Section 2 of the Sherman Act. Today’s decision vacates the orders of the full Commission.

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