Judge Tosses Sun, Unisys Suit Over Memory Chip Price
A federal judge has tossed out an antitrust lawsuit filed against seven memory
chip makers, but left the door open for the complaining customers to revive
the case with more detailed price-fixing allegations.
Sun Microsystems Inc. spokeswoman Kathy Engle said Monday the company would
refile the lawsuit.
Sun and Unisys Corp. sued the South Korea-based Hynix Semiconductor Inc. and
six other companies Sept. 1, accusing the dynamic random access memory chip
makers of conspiring to charge artificially high prices from 1997 to 2002.
U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton ruled Thursday that the lawsuit needs
to precisely detail and separate allegations of damages that occurred inside
and outside the United States. Hamilton gave Unisys and Sun until May 4 to file
an amended lawsuit.
Sun and Unisys also named in their lawsuit Taiwanese manufacturers Mosel Vitelic
Inc., Nanya Technology Corp. and Winbond Electronics Corp.; Japan's Elpida Memory
Inc. and Mitsubishi Electric Corp.; and Germany's Infineon Technologies AG.
"We would like to refrain from making any comment that may affect the
suit," said Harumasa Hirano, a spokesman for Mitsubishi Electric. Hideki
Saito, a spokesman for Elpida Memory, said his company could not comment on
the ongoing case.
Unisys also declined comment.
The chips, known as dynamic random access memory, or DRAM, are used in an array
of gadgets, including personal computers, printers, digital cameras, video recorders,
video game equipment and cellular phones.
The U.S. Justice Department has been investigating price-fixing allegation
in the so-called DRAM market ever since prices soared 95 percent in less than
two months in late 2001. Four companies including Hynix and 17 people have been
charged and the Justice Department has secured fines totaling more that $731
million in the probe.
Four executives each from Hynix, Samsung Electronics Ltd. and Infineon have
pleaded guilty or agreed to do so.
Hynix, the world's second-largest DRAM manufacturer, has been involved in a
rash of litigation and international disputes over memory chip production.
Last month, the Icheon, South Korea-based company and Japan's Toshiba Corp.
ended a legal feud over NAND flash memory chips by signing agreements to share
semiconductor patents and products.
NAND chips are used in digital cameras, music players including Apple Inc.'s
iPod Nano, handheld computers and memory cards.
In 2003, the United States levied a duty of 44.29 percent and the European
Union slapped a 34.8 percent tariff on Hynix's DRAM chips, alleging that government-affiliated
banks had subsidized Hynix's production via low-interest loans.
The World Trade Organization ruled in 2005 that some of the South Korean government's
financial support for Hynix was illegal, citing restructuring loans and debt-for-equity
swaps made by state-controlled banks when the company was on the verge of collapse.
South Korea and Japan are also locking horns at the WTO after Tokyo last year
imposed import duties on Hynix DRAM chips.