ITC Begins to Investigate Rambus' Latest Accusations Against Chip Designers

ITC to Investigate DRAM-Related Complaints, May Consider DP, PCIe, SATA Charges Later

by Anton Shilov
12/29/2010 | 02:25 PM

The U.S. International Trade Commission on Wednesday formally began investigation of patent infringement claims filed by Rambus against leading designer of chips, a case that involves tens of companies. Among the potential defenders are large suppliers of personal computers, computer components and other electronics.


The ITC said it has voted to institute an investigation of certain semiconductor chips and products containing same. The products at issue in this investigation are memory controllers as well as products containing them such as motherboards, modems, routers and computers. The investigation is based on a complaint filed by Rambus on December 1, 2010.

The bad news for tens of potential defenders is that the ITC will conduct an investigation at all and review wither the companies infringe the so-called Farmwald-Horowitz and Barth families of patents. In the case of the Barth patents, the accused semiconductor products include ones that incorporate DDR, DDR2, DDR3, mobile DDR, LPDDR, LPDDR2 and GDDR3 memory controllers. A good news is that the ITC has not unveiled plans to investigate the infringements of the so-called Dally family of patents, which relate to open industry standards, such as PCI Express, Serial ATA, Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) and DisplayPort.

The ITC identified chip designers like Broadcom, Freescale, LSI, Mediatek, Nvidia and STMicroelectronics as responders of the investigation. In addition, the ITC also found tens of manufacturers, including Asustek Computer, HP, Hitachi Global Storage Technologies, Motorola, Seagate and others, as respondents as well.

By instituting this investigation (337-TA-753), the ITC has not yet made any decision on the merits of the case. One of the administrative law judges (ALJ) will make an initial determination as to whether there is a patent infringement. The ITC will make a final determination in the investigation at the earliest practicable time. Within 45 days after institution of the investigation, the ITC will set a target date for completing the investigation. ITC remedial orders in case of patent-infringement cases are effective when issued and become final 60 days after issuance unless disapproved for policy reasons by the U.S. trade representative within that 60-day period.