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Memory-maker Rambus sues nVidia

Dispute over memory architecture patents

Rambus has filed a lawsuit against nVidia, alleging the graphics chip vendor infringed on its memory architecture patents.

The suit, filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California, alleges that nVidia infringed 17 of Rambus' patents on products, including chipsets and graphics processors, with memory controllers.

Rambus is seeking monetary damages as well as an injunction that would prevent nVidia from selling the products that allegedly infringe on the patents, the company.

"For more than six years, we have diligently attempted to negotiate a licensing agreement with nVidia, but our good faith efforts have been to no avail," said Tom Lavelle, senior vice-president and general counsel at Rambus.

Rambus continues to negotiate with nVidia to reach a settlement, Lavelle said.

nVidia officials were not immediately available for comment.

nVidia has seen its share of troubles recently. It recently detected a problem in some older graphics chips that shipped in "significant quantities" of laptops. nVidia said last week it would take a charge against second-quarter earnings of $150m to $200m to cover the expected cost of repairing and replacing the products, which include graphics processing units and media and communications processors.

Rambus has been involved in many patent lawsuits with rival memory makers. Its competitors have alleged that Rambus illegally deceived members of memory-standards-setting organisation Joint Electron Device Engineering Council (JEDEC) by failing to disclose its DRAM patents and monopolising markets while working with JEDEC to create royalty-free or low-royalty DRAM standards.

In 2006, the US Federal Trade Commission agreed with the memory makers, finding that Rambus illegally monopolised markets by failing to disclose its DRAM patents with JEDEC. Rambus appealed the decision.

But Rambus claimed a victory against rival memory makers earlier this year when a court ruled that the company did not violate procedures established by JEDEC, as alleged by memory makers Micron Technology, Nanya Technology and Hynix Semiconductor.

Rambus has also faced problems in Europe. The European Commission in 2007 issued a preliminary Statement of Objections that Rambus violated EU competition law by not disclosing that it owned relevant patents during the development of the DRAM standard.

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