Nvidia threatens to appeal Rambus ruling

Maker of graphics chips Nvidia is reeling after losing its court case against Rambus.

The ruling by the US International Trade Commission will make it difficult for Nvidia chips to get into the US even when they are under the bonnet of computers made by the likes of HP.

Last night Nvidia was rallying customers telling them they had nothing to fear.

Plan one is to appeal the patent ruling lost to Rambus. This will mean that in the short term customers, including HP, won’t see any disruption to their supplies at least until the Appeal is dealt with.

Nvidia has a back-up plan too. It claims it can continue sales by taking advantage of a licensing arrangement Rambus reached with European regulators as part of an unrelated antitrust case.

The European Commission licence “will allow us and our partners to continue our business under the terms of that license and prevent the enforcement of any exclusion order,” Nvidia said.

As part of an agreement reached with the European Commission last year, Rambus agreed to license its patents related to memory controllers at a rate that wouldn’t exceed 40 cents a unit.

By paying, Nvidia avoids an ITC order that would ban imports of some products containing the chips and prohibit sales of imported goods already in the country.

However Rambus General Counsel Tom Lavelle said in an interview that is what will happen in the future, and does not resolve what Nvidia did in the past. He said that Nvidia owes Rambus for the eight years that it was infringing its patents and not paying up.

Rambus has a civil lawsuit pending to seek that cash. In any event, the ITC doesn’t have the authority to impose monetary damages, only to block imports of the offending products.