Jury still out in Hynix, Rambus case

The jury is still out trying to work out if Hynix Semiconductor and Micron Technology conspired to push Rambus out of the memory-chip market.

Yesterday it asked to have a look at the trial testimony of Farhad Tabrizi, a former Hynix executive.

According to California Superior Court Judge James McBride, the jury was very interested in Tabrizi’s testimony.

Tabrizi claimed he was “pressured to become more upbeat about” Rambus-designed dynamic random access memory chips, or RDRAM, at a May 2000 chip industry forum. Rambus lawyers questioned Tabrizi, a former Hynix vice president of worldwide marketing, “extensively” about whether his enthusiasm was “genuine.”

Tabrizi was not the most terse witness, the judge said, and he “tended to fold in a lot of topics in any answer,” which produced objections from lawyers during the trial, McBride said.

Rambus claims that Micron and Hynix colluded to cut the prices of their own SDRAM, or synchronous dynamic random access memory chips and deserted their commitment to produce RDRAM, relegating it to a niche role.

It thinks it could have earned $3.95 billion in royalties without the alleged conspiracy. Under California law, a jury finding of damages in that amount would be automatically tripled to $11.9 billion.

Hynix and Micron told the court that Rambus has only itself to blame for the flaws and production delays that led to the failure of its product to become an industry standard.

According to Business Week, Tabrizi was asked whether he was promoted to vice president of worldwide marketing after engaging in a campaign from 1995 to 1998 that he called “RDRAM killing.”

Tabrizi told the court that the term meant that he promoted an “open standard” for DRAM in opposition to Rambus’s proprietary and licensed product.

However, Rambus lawyer Bart Williams waived a 1998 e-mail under his nose in which Tabrizi responded to an Intel request for Hynix’s estimates of its quarter-by-quarter RDRAM production. “My recommendation is to show bigger number than the actual plan, maybe even two to three times,” Tabrizi wrote in the message.

Tabrizi testified that, if he provided Intel with the actual production numbers, Intel would have produced fewer processors compatible with RDRAM. He claimed that Chipzilla wanted to create an over-supply of RDRAM so the prices went artificially low. He said he did not want to give that pleasure to Intel.

Tabrizi admitted that it was possible during an October 1998 meeting that he told representatives of other chip manufacturers, including Micron, to overstate RDRAM production.