Semiconductor Value Chain

Micron, Rambus Sign Long-term Memory Deal

12 December 2013

Micron Technology Inc. and Rambus Inc. have signed a broad patent cross-license that settles all outstanding litigation between the companies and will see Micron paying up to $280 million to Rambus over the next seven years.

The cross-license covers DRAM, resistive RAM, RAM flash and serial link innovations and should net Rambus $10 million per quarter unless Micron's revenue reduces significantly. The agreement covers products originated at both Micron and Elpida Memory Inc., which has been acquired by Micron. However, the royalty payments could increase if Micron acquires other memory companies, Ron Black, CEO of Rambus (Sunnyvale, Calif.), said during a conference call to discuss the move.

Certain memory products will enjoy a perpetual, paid-up license after the end of the initial term while for others Micron (Boise, Idaho) will have the option to renew the license for additional periods at the end of the initial term.

The deal is the last significant piece of litigation in a series that has seen Black move Rambus (Sunnyvale, Calif.) towards a more collaborative business model. Since Black was appointed as CEO in June 2012 Rambus has cut deals with SK Hynix, STMicroelectronics, Freescale Semiconductor and LSI Corp.

In the time since his appointment Black has refocused Rambus on bringing technology, products and services to market rather than on simply licensing patents. Black described the deal with Micron as a "landmark agreement."

Rambus's technology covers memory, security and some optoelectronics and Black is driving the company to monetize its technology base but without being a non-practicing entity or patent troll. The company has more than 250 engineers engaged in research and invention.

Unity for all

One aspect of the deal will focus on non-volatile memory that was in development at Unity Semiconductor Corp. Unity was a startup company that was bailed out by Micron in 2011 before being acquired by Rambus in February 2012 for $35 million in cash.

Unity, founded in 2002, was developing metal oxide based two-terminal cross-point non-volatile memory cell under, the name CMOx. Metal-oxide memories continue to be widely researched as potential non-volatile replacements for NAND flash memory.

Related links and articles:

News articles:

Rambus, Freescale to Collaborate on Non-Volatile Memory

Micron Set to Jump in Chip Rankings as Market Rebounds

Micron's Phase-Change Memory under Review

Micron to Spotlight ReRAM at ISSCC

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