Thursday, November 02, 2006

Federal Trade Commission's Rambus Opinion

“The Federal Trade Commission with a single stroke last month, may have restored the value of the handshake & good-faith promises among high-tech competitors, yet opening the door to potential new litigation,” a recent National Law Journal article begins.

A great many of life’s everyday, ordinary objects—lightbulbs, electric plugs, screws—bear standardization thru the work of voluntary, nongovernmental groups collectively referred to as “standard-setting organizations,” and, historically, the law has had a very limited role in them, resulting in vaguity of any future patent interests or obligations. That changed in the 1990s when Rambus, Inc., a developer &licensor of computer memory technology, tried to corner the memory chip market by secretly securing patents on what it knew would become an industry standard.

The FTC, on August 2, found those actions violations of federal antitrust law and, while questions remain on how to best determine an appropriate remedy, the “Commission believes it would exercise its remedial powers most responsibly after additional briefings and, if necessary, oral arguments devoted specifically to remedial issues were held.”

FTC press release
Rambus opinion

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