Everyone's a monopoly these days!

The US Federal Trade Commission has just issued the following statement: "By a unanimous vote, the Federal Trade Commission has determined that computer technology developer Rambus, Inc. unlawfully monopolized the markets for four computer memory technologies that have been incorporated into industry standards for dynamic random access memory – DRAM chips."

Commissioner Pamela Jones Harbour is responsible for official opinion, and further adds “Through its successful strategy, Rambus was able to conceal its patents and patent applications until after the standards were adopted and the market was locked in. Only then did Rambus reveal its patents – through patent infringement lawsuits against JEDEC members who practiced the standard,” continues the official opinion.

The FTC ruling comes just days after a US judge halved the cash award that Rambus received after suing Hynix over patent infringement.  The Hynix ruling and the FTC statement are certainly no coincidence: the patents the FTC alleges that Rambus submarined into JEDEC are the same patents Hynix was sued over.

The plot further thickens with the fact that Rambus is simultaneously suing the major DRAM manufacturers for artificially deflating the price of SDRAM in an effort to dampen RDRAM sales.  Additionally, Attorneys General of 34 states have filed major antitrust lawsuits against the largest DRAM manufacturers on monopoly allegations, with the key evidence coming from email messages obtained by Rambus.  Samsung, the primary manufacturer for Rambus, was strikingly absent from the monopoly filings.

Interestingly enough, the FTC has not issued any penalties for Rambus, and doesn't even promise that any further charges will be brought against Rambus.  The FTC opinion adds "Now that the Commission has found, and determined the scope of liability, the Commission believes it would exercise its broad remedial powers most responsibly after additional briefings and, if necessary, oral argument devoted specifically to remedial issues." 

Ultimately, no party in this continuing saga has had a consistent or innocent message.  For those of us who follow the technology industry, the DRAM industry is the only sector where multiple parties claim the other has a monopoly.

"Google fired a shot heard 'round the world, and now a second American company has answered the call to defend the rights of the Chinese people." -- Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.)
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