Leading memory manufacturers are facing a $1bn lawsuit from rival Rambus that alleges they conspired to sabotage its memory technology, RDRam, in the mid-1990s.
This is the latest twist in the fraught memory market, where a growing number of key players are fighting legal battles and facing investigations by US and European agencies into allegations of price fixing and other anti-competitive practices.
Micron, Hynix, Siemens and Infineon Technologies were named in the 36-page complaint filed by Rambus in San Francisco. It alleged that they colluded to boycott Rambus and its memory technology.
It also claimed they attempted to restrict production, artificially inflate the price of RDRam chips, promote alternatives and drive Rambus-designed chips out of the computer memory market.
All of these actions helped to deprive the company of royalties that could have totalled more than $1bn, the lawsuit claimed.
"From substantial written evidence already in the public record, we believe these memory manufacturers colluded illegally, thereby limiting consumer choice and depriving our RDRam products of the opportunity to compete fairly in the marketplace," said John Danforth, senior vice-president of Rambus.
"While we cannot change the past, we have a duty to our stockholders to respond appropriately to this evidence, which we are doing today."
Of those accused, Micron has been the first to counter the allegations.
Dave Parker, director of corporate communications at the firm, said: "Micron builds products to meet the demands of its customers. Rambus failed in the marketplace because of excessive manufacturing costs and minimal RDRam demand.
Several memory manufacturers, including the world's largest, produce sufficient RDRam products to meet the limited worldwide demand. It is unfortunate that Rambus is trying to blame the market failure of its RDRam technology on others, such as Micron, which ultimately responded to marketplace demands.
"We believe Rambus is attempting to deflect attention away from the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC's) ongoing suit against Rambus for alleged antitrust violations."
This is not the first time that Rambus has attempted to claim royalties from SDRam makers, claiming that the underlying technology uses elements of its own RDRam technology. However, Rambus is now citing new email evidence of a plot from its own battle with the FTC.
The emails between employees in leading DRam firms could suggest that price fixing was being planned, according to the firm.
One email about raising prices in November 2001, from a Micron manager to other DRam suppliers, stated: "The consensus from all suppliers is that if Micron makes the move, all of them will do the same and make it stick."
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