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All imports of NVIDIA graphics chips have been banned, after NVIDIA lost a intellectual property dispute with Rambus.  (Source: NVIDIA)

The suit claims that NVIDIA illegally used technology owned by Rambus in its memory controller.  (Source: NVIDIA via Guru3D)
Graphics maker is appealing the decision, though

If there's one patent monger more famous than NTP, it's Los Alamos, California-based Rambus.  With a market cap of $2.24B USD, one would think Rambus made a hit product, but it in fact doesn't make anything -- it merely files and buys patents and then pursues license agreements on those patents.  In total, Rambus made 96 percent of its $113M in revenue last year through licensing.  When deals fall through, it's more than happy to sue.

Graphics chipmaker NVIDIA has found itself in an awkward position after losing a major case against Rambus.  The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) in Washington ruled yesterday that NVIDIA infringed on three patents owned by Rambus.  The ITC then ordered all imports of NVIDIA chips banned.

Among the company's highest profile clients that may be effected by the ban include Hewlett Packard, ASUSTek, and Biostar -- which use NVIDIA chips in their computers and/or motherboards.

Jeff Schreiner, an analyst for Capstone Investments Inc. in San Diego warns, "It puts Rambus in the dominant bargaining position.  A whole bunch of other companies that were watching this will now likely sign licensing deals."

NVIDIA's current plan is to license the patents temporarily in Europe, where Rambus in an antitrust case agreed to license its memory controller technology at a rate that wouldn’t exceed 40 cents per unit.  

The good news about that is that NVIDIA should be able to avoid mass disruption to its OEM partners.  The bad news is that some products may still be banned from sale, though, and NVIDIA will likely lose its right to sell its current stock held in the U.S.
The ruling will now be subject to review by President Obama, who has the power to make changes to the ruling.

NVIDIA is currently appealing the ruling.  It is also seeking review of the three patents involved, which it claims are invalid.  It already succeeded in invalidating two of the five patents that Rambus originally used in the suit.

Rambus currently has a pending civil suit against NVIDIA as well.  Rambus recently settled a similar suit with Samsung for $900M USD.  It currently has pending suits over dynamic-random access memory (DRAM) technology going against South Korea’s Hynix Semiconductor Inc. and Boise, Idaho-based Micron Technology Inc.

The current ruling deeply impacts both NVIDIA and its production partner Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.  At the very least it cuts into their bottom lines, possibly forcing them to raise prices.  That's pretty much the last thing that NVIDIA -- who came late to the most recent round in the graphics war -- needs.





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U.S Patent System
By B3an on 7/27/2010 11:02:07 AM , Rating: 5
You yanks have some ridiculous and messed up things, but your patent system takes the cake.




RE: U.S Patent System
By DarkElfa on 7/27/2010 12:27:44 PM , Rating: 5
As an American, I have to say that you are correct sir.


RE: U.S Patent System
By Chernobyl68 on 7/27/2010 12:28:32 PM , Rating: 5
could not agree more. Our government is truly F'd on many things.


RE: U.S Patent System
By Ammohunt on 7/27/2010 2:04:59 PM , Rating: 2
Like you limeys can talk! Jellied Eels need i say more?


RE: U.S Patent System
By bugnguts on 7/27/2010 2:19:49 PM , Rating: 4
We has a war with you over 200 years ago and argued that there should be no taxation without representation. I say we have a new US revolution with our government, representation based on occupation.

I know a student who wanted to be a career politician, got a BA in political science, then working to get his law degree and then he planned to go into politics. He could discuss all the current political issues and sound smart, but anything science, math and tech based he was clueless.

Just like the congressman from Alaskan that said we needed to make two internets because the one we had was too slow due to people downloading movies in his words he, "tried downloading the internet and it took him the whole weekend." Wow if only I had that kind of band width not to mention storage space. Now I don't expect every congressmen to be familiar with every topic that comes before him but this guy was on the science and technology committee trying to make new laws.

Enough with >90% of are law makers being polisci or law graduates. Representation based on occupation please, and yes I think quite a few of the employees at my local McDonald's would bring more to the table than the homogeneous law making body we have now.


RE: U.S Patent System
By FITCamaro on 7/27/2010 4:02:23 PM , Rating: 1
How about they just not make laws they have no business or authority to make?

I love it how all these "experts" politicians reference have no practical experience in the field they're experts in. If they have any background at all. I mean hell Obama didn't even have experience running a damn thing before he was president. Wish I could apply to be a CEO without ever having managed anything(sorry he "managed" his campaign). Of course I'd also have to give them a copy of my birth certificate when I applied, not a certificate of live birth. Sure had to when I applied at my current job.


RE: U.S Patent System
By FaaR on 7/27/10, Rating: 0
Ridiculous. Again.
By Earthmonger on 7/27/2010 10:40:22 AM , Rating: 4
Ought to be an addendum to patent law stating that if the patent owner does not actively use the patented technology in the manufacture a related product, within two years of the patent issue date, rights to file legal action against a company who does use the technology are forfeit.

Kill these parasitic patent-mongers before they start patenting things like "still images of orbiting celestial bodies", aka The Moon.




RE: Ridiculous. Again.
By Micronite on 7/27/2010 11:15:24 AM , Rating: 3
There is actually a part of patent law called "Reduction to Practice" that requires the object of the patent to be put into practice to be enforceable.

Unfortunately, there's this little problem:
quote:
A reduction to practice can be done by another on behalf of the inventor.

So basically, if you don't develop it but someone else does, you can sue them for basically making your patent enforceable. Screwey.

Source: http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/mpep/document...


RE: Ridiculous. Again.
By Lonyo on 7/27/2010 11:56:37 AM , Rating: 2
Um, I don't think someone else making use of your patent in a way that allows you to sue them counts as being done "on behalf of the inventor".
I would assume what it means is that you can get a patent, and then license it to someone else, or contract them to manufacture something using said patent. I don't think it means you can file a patent, and then say it's in use if someone uses it without licensing it.


RE: Ridiculous. Again.
By FITCamaro on 7/27/2010 4:06:51 PM , Rating: 2
And that's why you're not a $200/hr patent attorney


Ahh Rambus
By IcePickFreak on 7/27/2010 12:42:08 PM , Rating: 4
About 10-12 years ago I had a desktop computer that had 256mb of Rambus RAM. I never upgraded the RAM in it, even when 512mb became the new standard, because 256mb of Rambus RAM costed nearly as much as building a whole new computer with 512mb of ddr. Screw you Rambus, screw you.




RE: Ahh Rambus
By hduser on 7/27/2010 2:07:10 PM , Rating: 1
I'm not sure why you're blaming Rambus for the pricing of their RDRAM modules when ultimately it's the DRAM manufacturer who sets the price.


RE: Ahh Rambus
By IcePickFreak on 7/27/2010 3:51:38 PM , Rating: 2
I don't think the manufacturers were marking the RDRAM sticks up 10000%, making it cost several times more than DDR, because it would be good for sales and their bank account.

At the time I was able to build a complete new system - new mobo, new/faster cpu, double the ram but in DDR, and a new/faster gpu - for slightly more than I would of been able to buy a single 256mb RDRAM stick for.

Whether it was Rambus enforcing massive licensing fee's on manufacturers, or the manufacturing process was that expensive, it was a failure of a memory tech because of the price. If manufacturers were just marking it up that much, it wouldn't have been long before one came along and undercut the prices to steal all the sales for Rambus - you know, that whole supply & demand thing. RDRAM was pretty common in store bought desktops for a short while so there was a market. Their strategy of sticking it to you for upgrades didn't quite work out though as DDR came along.


RE: Ahh Rambus
By FITCamaro on 7/27/2010 4:13:04 PM , Rating: 2
Well in fairness DDR manufacturers were found to be price fixing to drive rambus out of business. But yes it was the high lice sign fees that killed it. It was excellent memory though. And a much faster version is half of the memory in the PS3.

They did develop a good technology. They just made it too expensive and others developed alternatives which were cheaper and were somewhat similar. Today's DDR3 though with Intel's triple channel memory bus on the i7 9xx series is much like rd-ram.


RE: Ahh Rambus
By hduser on 7/27/2010 7:31:17 PM , Rating: 2
Rambus wanted to get RDRAM off the ground and their royalty rates for RDRAM was less than DDR. The DRAM manufacturers weren't interested in helping Rambus succeed and never dedicated the resources to fill the demand for RDRAM thus the price remained high.


Rambus douchebags........
By ARoyalF on 7/27/2010 11:48:45 AM , Rating: 2
I hereby patent a method to activate keys on a keyboard by using fingers, any appendages, or extensions thereof. Licensing fees shall be a penny per key.




RE: Rambus douchebags........
By majorpain on 7/27/2010 1:25:47 PM , Rating: 2
Bloody genious! :D


RE: Rambus douchebags........
By mindless1 on 7/27/2010 4:38:15 PM , Rating: 2
I hereby patent the methods of charging money for licensing your patent.


RE: Rambus douchebags........
By ARoyalF on 7/27/2010 10:15:34 PM , Rating: 2
Excellent, I would now like to patent money : )


Wait, what?
By Yawgm0th on 7/27/2010 11:35:31 AM , Rating: 1
quote:
The ruling will now be subject to review by President Obama, who has the power to make changes to the ruling.


IANAL, but since when does the Executive branch get to overrule Judicial decisions? Is there something specific to patent law that gives the President authority in this case, or something else I'm missing?




RE: Wait, what?
By Avatar28 on 7/27/2010 12:42:29 PM , Rating: 3
It is not a judicial ruling. It was from the International Trade Commission, a part of the executive branch. Lately companies have been taking to use the ITC to get a second shot at patent trolling. They file a lawsuit and if the judge won't give them an injunction to block the products then they go to the ITC to try to get THEM to block the import.


Frustrating
By wiz220 on 7/27/2010 1:20:53 PM , Rating: 3
I think the most frustrating thing about a company like this is that there is virtually nothing the free market can do to correct this. I suppose if Rambus is a public company shareholders could pull out and basically bankrupt the company, but the free market will make sure that won't happen as long as they are making money, which they are. How does this get fixed aside from changing patent law (which is a fairy tale type dream at this point)?

At what point does technological innovation come to a halt because the risk of litigation and its costs are too high?




RE: Frustrating
By mindless1 on 7/27/2010 4:40:08 PM , Rating: 1
Right around when Windows Vista was released.


Wrong again Mick
By sprockkets on 7/27/2010 8:55:23 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
With a market cap of $2.24B USD, one would think Rambus made a hit product, but it in fact doesn't make anything -- it merely files and buys patents and then pursues license agreements on those patents.


Really? Who came up with Rambus RAM? Contrary to you painting them as a patent troll, Rambus does actually engineer products, like the RAM that went into SG workstations and the N64, and patent their tech to protect themselves like anyone else.

Perhaps no one liked the whole lawsuit part of them back in the day of their patents, but you can't ignore the fact that DRAM makers were found guilty of collusion to push them out of the market either.




RE: Wrong again Mick
By sviola on 7/28/2010 12:01:16 PM , Rating: 2
Add to this that the PS3 memory controller was designed by them as well.

Rambus is like ARM, they engineer and design solutions and then license it.


By Iridium130m on 7/27/2010 11:07:04 AM , Rating: 3
acquire patents, pursue licensing with companies that make products that come close to your patents for a revenue stream, litigate against those that don't license for quick shots of cash, and never have to worry about retaliation of stepping on other companies patents because you don't make a a single product, so your overhead and risk for running your operation is minimal outside of your litigation pursuits.

Yea, how do I get into that gig...




Patents stop progress
By solarrocker on 7/27/2010 10:58:49 AM , Rating: 2
While patents do protect people intelectual rights, it also stops progress when used in the way Rambus is abusing it. They should not allow other companies to just take patents and not use them for a long time. And to sue, it is just almost mind boggeling that it is even allowed.




rambus
By Yojimbo on 7/27/2010 5:27:56 PM , Rating: 2
If Rambus doesn't make anything, than neither does Nvidia. they are both fabless. Rambus designs memory systems and Nvidia designs graphics systems. You are posting opinionated news reports when you don't know the details of what you are posting about. I've previously owned both stocks, but don't own either, now.




RAMBUS is based in Los Altos
By Desslok on 7/27/2010 11:29:52 AM , Rating: 1
There is no Los Alamos in Cali.




Dear Rambus...
By messyunkempt on 7/27/2010 7:22:13 PM , Rating: 1
Fuck You. That is all.




"Mac OS X is like living in a farmhouse in the country with no locks, and Windows is living in a house with bars on the windows in the bad part of town." -- Charlie Miller













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