EU charges US memory chip maker rambus with antitrust abuse
Aug 23, 2007
European Union regulators said Thursday they had charged U.S. memory chip maker Rambus Inc. with antitrust abuse, alleging that the company set "unreasonable" royalties for DRAM patents fraudulently set as industry standards.
The EU's preliminary charges come weeks after the U.S. Federal Trade Commission ruled that the company deceived a standards-setting committee, failing to disclose that its patents had been incorporated into an industry standard for memory technology.
Every manufacturer that wanted to make synchronous DRAM chips had to negotiate a license with Rambus.
Both EU and U.S. antitrust officials allege that this allowed Rambus gain an illegal monopoly in the 1990s for Dynamic Random Access Memory, or DRAM, chips used in personal computers, servers, printers, personal digital assistants and cameras.
The FTC order stops Rambus from collecting royalties on U.S. patents and foreign ones relating to goods imported into or from the United States. But the EU's executive arm said it had to act because the U.S. decision would not grant relief to companies in Europe.
Rambus has nine weeks to respond to the European Commission's statement of objections and can seek an oral hearing before the EU comes to a final decision that could levy a fine that can total 10 percent of a company's global turnover for each year it broke the law.
But it is more likely that the EU would require Rambus to charge "a reasonable and nondiscriminatory royalty rate," it said. It did not give details on how much that would be.
Rambus claimed it saw nothing new in the EU charges.