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(Updates with lawyers’ arguments in fifth and sixth paragraphs.)
June 16 (Bloomberg) -- Hynix Semiconductor Inc. and Micron Technology Inc. lost a ruling in a California antitrust lawsuit by memory-chip designer Rambus Inc. that would have allowed the companies to present privileged documents as evidence at trial.
Superior Court Judge James McBride in San Francisco today rejected the chipmakers’ contention that the documents should be made available under the “crime-fraud” exception. Micron and Hynix can still seek to get the documents admitted on a case-by- case basis.
The argument relied on a federal appeals court ruling last month that Rambus destroyed documents relevant to patent- infringement claims it planned to pursue against the chipmakers. Rambus “committed or intended to commit a fraud or crime” by destroying documents that would have had to be produced in litigation, Hynix and Micron said in court papers.
Rambus, based in Sunnyvale, California, is seeking as much as $4.3 billion from Hynix and Micron over claims they drove Rambus-designed dynamic random access memory, or RDRAM, chips out of the computer-memory market. The damages would be automatically tripled to $12.9 billion under California law if Rambus wins the case, Rambus claims.
McBride issued his ruling from the bench at a hearing today without explanation. Sean Eskovitz, a lawyer representing Rambus from Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP in Los Angeles, argued at the hearing that there is a “different legal standard” for the crime-fraud exception in California than in federal court.
Patrick Shields, a lawyer for Micron with Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP in Los Angeles, told McBride that the federal appeals court “found that Rambus willfully destroyed documents,” and that there was “ample evidence” that those documents would need to be produced in litigation.
Dan Francisco, a spokesman for Boise, Idaho-based Micron, declined to comment on today’s ruling.
A jury is being selected in the case, with opening arguments scheduled for next week. Earlier this week, Micron and Ichon, South Korea-based Hynix lost their request to have McBride instruct jurors that Rambus’s document destruction in anticipation of litigation is proven. They are still permitted to present document destruction arguments at trial.
The case is Rambus Inc. v. Micron Technology Inc., 04- 431105, California Superior Court (San Francisco).
--Editors: Fred Strasser, Stephen Farr
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