A judge told lawyers in an antitrust battle between Rambus and other tech companies that they couldn't use the term "patent troll" to describe the Los Altos computer memory company.
But that didn't prevent William Price, a lawyer for Rambus opponent Micron Technology, from arguing that Rambus set and ensnared his client in a "patent trap." Price said that Rambus took ideas from an industry standards group, waited till the standards were adopted and then "sprung the trap" by accusing the manufacturers of patent infringement.
The Quinn Emanuel lawyer's remarks came during opening statements Monday in San Jose in a case in which Rambus is accused by Micron, Hynix Semiconductor and others of anti-competitive behavior and intentional fraud. The case is the latest in the long-running fight over Rambus' DRAM patents. In 2006, Rambus won a $133.6 million infringement verdict against Hynix. If Rambus wins the current case, it'll collect its award from Hynix and possibly much more, analysts told Bloomberg. But if Rambus loses, the judge in the case could rule that the patents are unenforceable.
Before the case went to trial, lawyers for Rambus from Munger Tolles & Olson asked the court to exclude the use of "patent troll," a phrase used to describe companies that buy up patents not to make products, but to sue for infringement. The lawyers also asked the judge to limit the term "submarine patent" — which is used to describe plaintiffs that surface with a patent infringement suit once a company has become successful using that technology. The Munger lawyers said the terms would prejudice the jury and Judge Ronald Whyte agreed in a Jan. 25 order.
Munger Tolles' Gregory Stone did not appear to be upset that the word "patent trap" was uttered, only that it was directed at his client. "The facts in this case will show that there was no patent trap," said Stone in his opening statement. Stone said the companies suing Rambus just didn't want to pay royalties, so they ganged up to attack his client.
The jury seemed less interested in the subtleties of the case. One juror yawned at least five times during the four hours of opening statements. Rambus investors in the courtroom were much more lively. After the plaintiffs opening statement, one declared that he was worried and might sell his shares. But when Stone finished up Rambus' side of the story, the investor was calmed and said he would hang on to the investment for now.
— Zusha Elinson