January 18, 2001, 10:57 AM — BOSTON -- RAMBUS on Thursday said it signed a patent licensing agreement with Elpida Memory covering certain memory technologies for which Rambus says it holds patents.
Elpida, of Tokyo, will pay Mountain View, Calif.-based Rambus a license fee plus royalties for the use of patented Rambus technologies used in the production of SDRAM (synchronous dynamic random access memory) and Double Data Rate (DDR) SDRAM memory chips.
The agreement allows Elpida to sell SDRAM and DDR-SDRAM components that use Rambus technology to its customers. Rambus does not manufacture chips itself, but earns revenue from royalty payments from the use of its patented technologies by other companies.
Under the agreement, Elpida will also design and develop memory technologies in conjunction with Rambus, the companies said. Elpida will pay a higher royalty rate for DDR-SDRAM and related chips than royalties for Rambus DRAM (RDRAM), Rambus' proprietary memory technology.
The deal comes one day after Samsung Electronics announced a similar deal with Rambus for the use of its memory chip technologies.
Elpida was formed in September as a joint venture between Hitachi and NEC to marry their memory businesses and market them under a single brand name. Elpida recently unveiled prototype SDRAM and DDR-SDRAM memory chips capable of holding 256Mb of data and which are half the size of existing memory chips. Elpida plans to enter the DRAM market with their first DRAM products in the first quarter of 2001.
Before Thursday's deal, Rambus in January filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against Hitachi and its American subsidiary, Hitachi Semiconductor (America), accusing the company of producing DRAM products that infringed its patented technologies. The battle extended to Europe in June when Rambus filed a similar lawsuit in Germany against Hitachi Europe GmBH.
The companies resolved their dispute in June with a worldwide licensing agreement that called for Hitachi to pay Rambus royalties on use of patented technologies in DRAM devices as well as chips that interfaced with the memory.
NEC signed a similar deal with Rambus in September. The Elpida deal with Rambus will ensure the seamless integration of NEC and Hitachi's memory units into a unified brand, according to the Rambus statement.
Rambus positioned the deal as a victory, as Elpida will enter the DRAM market in January 2001 with an 11.5 percent of worldwide marketshare, according to IDC figures quoted by Rambus in its statement. That figure could rise to 20 percent by 2003, IDC said.
Rambus holds more than 100 patents in the United States and Europe and has licensed its technology to more than 30 semiconductor companies worldwide.