It's been a long, drawn-out battle, but the International Trade Commission (ITC) has finally made a ruling in the spat between Rambus and NVIDIA. Almost 20 months after starting proceedings, the final decision has declared that the graphics-chip maker, along with HP, ASUS, MSI, BFG and a few others, have infringed several patents held by the memory-designer. As a result, a ban was ordered on the import into the US of any components made unlawfully using the intellectual property.
The case revolved around three patents held by Rambus that deal with the transfer and control of data between components and system memory. However, NVIDIA claims that it was entitled to use these under an agreement made in 2009 with the European Commission. While an ITC judge held that the patents had been violated in January, the full Trade Commission took until this week to confirm the decision.
The ruling calls for a full ban on the import of infringing products into the US, though this is subject to a 60-day review-period before it takes effect. However, according to Reuters, the decision is rarely overturned upon review. While it's not entirely clear which of NVIDIA's products the ruling would actually cover, company spokesman Hector Marinez claimed that "there will be no impact on our customers or our business as a result of this ruling". As is often the case with technology patents, it's possible that the current state-of-the-art has moved on, and that the infringed patents are no longer in use. Without more details though, we can't really be sure.
Stormy seas ahead?
Representatives from Rambus were understandably pleased with the ruling, though NVIDIA is sticking to its guns and plans to appeal the decision. If nothing else though, this is just another blow that the graphics-chip-maker doesn't need. Its share price has taken a beating over the last six months, shedding nearly half of its value this year. Considering the added costs of undoubtedly-expensive lawyers throughout the appeal process and potentially having to pay a hefty licensing fee to Rambus, the GeForce-maker's bank manager may be starting to get a little worried