Mitsubishi Electric and Rambus ink licensing pact

Japan’s Mitsubishi Electric Corp. has become the seventh memory chip maker to agree to pay royalties to Rambus Inc. for some of the most commonly used computer memory interface technologies, the Mountain View, Calif.-based technology developer announced Tuesday.

Under the terms of a patent license agreement signed between the two companies, Mitsubishi has agreed to pay Rambus royalties for technologies used in SDRAM (synchronous dynamic RAM) and Double Data Rate (DDR) SDRAM memory chips, as well as in controller chips that directly interface with these types of memories, Rambus said in a statement. In addition, the agreement calls for Mitsubishi to pay a license fee for the entire package.

Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but Rambus said that the royalty rates Mitsubishi has agreed to pay for DDR SDRAM chips are higher than comparable rates for the U.S. company’s proprietary RDRAM (Rambus DRAM) technology. Rambus has signed similar agreements with six other memory chipmakers, including Hitachi Ltd, NEC Corp., Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and Toshiba Corp.

Other memory makers, including South Korea’s Hyundai Electronics Industries Co. Ltd., Munich-based Infineon Technologies AG and Micron Technology Inc., of Boise, Idaho, have refused to acknowledge Rambus’ patent claims and are fighting the company’s royalty demands in courts.

For Rambus, which is a pure technology developer and does not produce any products itself, the royalty agreements it has signed with companies over SDRAM and DDR SDRAM will ensure a steady revenue stream whether or not its proprietary RDRAM memory technology is successful.

Chip giant Intel Corp.’s latest Pentium 4 processor currently is available only in PCs featuring RDRAM, while Intel competitors such as Advanced Micro Devices Inc. and Taiwan’s Via Technologies Inc. to date have backed the competing DDR SDRAM memory technology.

The Pentium 4, which was launched in November, is expected to give a boost to sales of RDRAM memory chips, according to backers such as Seoul-based Samsung.

Samsung, the world’s largest supplier of RDRAM chips, projected in November that the worldwide RDRAM market would grow to about US$9.2 billion in 2002, up from approximately $1.7 billion in 2000.

Rambus, in Mountain View, Calif., can be reached at Mitsubishi Electric, in Tokyo, is at Samsung Electronics, in Seoul, is at