Sun Microsystems is promising to sue memory makers again, after a US judge threw out its claims that Hynix and other DRAM makers illegally inflated their prices.
In March 2006, Sun filed suit in California, alleging that it had been forced to overpay for memory chips in its servers and storage systems. In addition to Hynix of South Korea, the suit named Germany's Infineon, Elpida and Mitsubishi of Japan, and Taiwan's Mosel Vitelic and Nanya.
The charges echoed a similar complaint brought in 2002 by the US Department of Justice. That suit has led to multimillion dollar fines for several companies. Likewise, in February, Samsung agreed to pay $90 million in a DRAM price-fixing suit raised by a group of US state governments, who alleged that PC vendors such as Apple and Dell passed on the inflated costs to consumers. At the time, Hynix said it would continue to fight that suit.
Despite the success by government prosecutors, last week Judge Phyllis Hamilton dismissed Sun's complaint. Hamilton acknowledged Sun's arguments about the financial damages it had suffered from the overcharging, but said she needed to see more detail on DRAM market patterns in countries outside the US, said Kathy Engle, director of corporate communications for Sun.
Hynix did not respond to requests for comment. The company has not been distracted by its legal troubles, but has posted strong sales in recent quarters. Hynix finished 2006 by leapfrogging Qimonda into second place in the global DRAM market, lagging behind only Samsung, according to the analyst firm iSuppli.
Hamilton gave Sun a deadline of 4 May to refile the suit with additional information about Sun's sales in foreign markets, and the company expects to meet that time-line, Engle said. Sun plans to seek damages for the amount it overpaid on DRAM purchases.
"During the period in which these companies were fixing prices, a very large volume of DRAM was purchased, so we believe there was a significant amount of overcharging," she said.