By Michael Kanellos
The name alone is like fingers on a chalkboard to some people.
The company, which licenses technology to produce high speed memory, spent a good part of the last decade embroiled in litigation against some of the largest chip makers in the world. Although the company prevailed with EU and U.S. regulators and won a $397 million judgment for infringement against Hynix, many still look at the the company as a patent troll that seeks to extract royalties out of unwitting victims. (Disclosure: I covered the Rambus cases for a number of years and generally predicted Rambus would win – the memos unearthed during discovery tended to put the chip makers in a negative light. But I was in the distinct minority among reporters. Besides, hanging out with Rambus execs at conferences was sort of like befriending Don King.)
Now the company has moved into green. Rambus today announced that it has purchased advanced lighting and optoelectonic patents from Global Lighting Technologies for around $26 million. The patents are applicable to using LEDs as a light source for LCD screens as well as the general lighting market. In all, Rambus acquired 84 patents in the deal.
So what does that mean? If you make LEDs, expect to get a letter from Rambus CEO Harold Hughes sometime in the future.
Interestingly, some companies in the green industry has already started to gravitate toward the "intellectual property business model" in part pioneered by Rambus. Nanostellar, which once made chemical powders for catalytic converters, now licenses intellectual property instead. 1366 Technologies, which had earlier planned to produce solar cells, is now figuring out ways to exploit its technology without building massive factories. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office recently said it would conduct an experiment to put 3,000 green patent applications on a fast track.
The IP business model won't support more than a handful of companies. Most large companies still don't like to license technologies or pay royalties to small ones. Still, it can be an efficient way to get a laboratory concept to the market.