It was a good day at the office yesterday for Rambus; it made $900m when Samsung caved in on the eve of a court case, which the Korean firm had planned to fight alongside Hynix and Micron.
Rambus, which develops and licenses memory technology, has been in dispute for many years with a variety of leading semi-conductor firms alleging they used its technology improperly. Several claimed that Rambus had co-operated in bad faith with them in standards bodies and the US Federal Trade Commission was pursuing Rambus for anti-competitive trade practices. Rambus's lawyers put paid to that after an appeal to the US Supreme Court.
Samsung has now agreed to license Rambus’s patent portfolio, covering all its semiconductor products. This includes a perpetual, fully paid-up license to some current DRAM products. Furthermore, Samsung will invest $200m in Rambus stock as part of the settlement. It will also make an initial payment of $200m and a quarterly payment of about $25m for the next five years, meaning Samsung has to find $900m in total.
As well as that, the two have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) relating to Samsung use of a new Rambus high-performance memory interface. The two companies will initially focus this on graphics and mobile memory, before moving on to look at potential collaboration on server and high-speed NAND flash memories.
All claims and counterclaims between Samsung and Rambus are settled by this agreement. Unless Hynix and Micron have something that Samsung hasn't in their legal cases, it looks like these two will roll over as well, netting Rambus more cash.
The stock purchase by Samsung and the use of newer Rambus technologies that post-date Rambus's long-lasting legal blitzkrieg against the semi-conductor industry is encouraging. It suggests that the industry and Rambus may now see themselves as partners rather than antagonists going forward.
That will please everyone. Except, possibly, the legal eagles. ®