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Oct. 19 (Bloomberg) -- The jury deliberating whether Hynix Semiconductor Inc. and Micron Technology Inc. conspired to push Rambus Inc. out of the memory-chip market reviewed trial testimony by Farhad Tabrizi, a former Hynix executive.
California Superior Court Judge James McBride in San Francisco said today that the 12-member jury, which has been deliberating since Sept. 22, requested information about Tabrizi’s testimony that 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,” McBride said.
McBride said in his chambers that he reviewed testimony excerpts with lawyers from both sides to be read back to the jury.
“We know that Mr. Tabrizi was not the most terse witness,” and that he “tended to fold in a lot of topics in any answer,” which produced objections from lawyers during trial, McBride said. “The jury in its collective wisdom will ask further questions” if the testimony isn’t satisfactory, the judge said.
Rambus, based in Sunnyvale, California, contends that Boise, Idaho-based Micron and Ichon, South Korea-based 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.
Rambus contends it would 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.
Lawyers for Hynix and Micron argued that Rambus has only itself to blame, not collusion by rivals, for the flaws and production delays that led to the failure of its product to become an industry standard.
At trial, which began June 8, 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 said the term meant that he promoted an “open standard” for DRAM in opposition to Rambus’s proprietary and licensed product.
Rambus lawyer Bart Williams asked Tabrizi about a 1998 e-mail to a colleague responding to an Intel Corp. request for Hynix’s estimates of its quarter-by-quarter RDRAM production. “My recommendation is to show bigger number than 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. “Intel wanted to create an over-supply of RDRAM so the prices go artificially low, and I didn’t want to give that pleasure to Intel,” Tabrizi said.
Williams asked Tabrizi if he suggested during an October 1998 meeting that representatives of other chip manufacturers, including Micron, should overstate RDRAM production.
“It’s possible,” Tabrizi said. “I don’t deny it.”
The case is Rambus Inc. v. Micron Technology Inc., 04- 0431105, California Superior Court (San Francisco).
--Editors: Peter Blumberg, Mary Romano
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