Oracle Sues Micron for DRAM Price Fixing

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2010-09-29 Print this article Print

Oracle, which now owns the Sun server, storage and workstation franchises, filed a new legal action against Micron, charging the company with price fixing over a span of about five years.

Data center software and systems maker Oracle, which has seen its own share of litigation over the past several years--especially involving the acquisition of Sun Microsystems--is seeking legal restitution against solid-state memory maker Micron for alleged price fixing.

Oracle, which now owns the Sun server, storage and workstation franchises, filed legal action Sept. 24 in U.S. District Court in San Jose, Calif., against Boise, Idaho-based Micron, charging the company with price fixing over a span of about five years.

Between 1998 and 2002, Sun Microsystems purchased in excess of $2 billion in DRAM (dynamic random access memory) from Micron and other suppliers, in addition to millions of dollars' worth of DRAM that came installed in already-finished products.

Oracle claimed in the lawsuit that Micron conspired with several other companies, including Samsung, Hynix and Infineon, to control the price of DRAM in its sales to systems makers that included Sun.

Oracle is seeking unspecified damages, as well as restitution for "disgorgement" of revenue and earnings, court costs and interest, according to court documents.

In June, six memory-chip companies--including Micron--agreed to pay $173 million plus interest to 33 states and private class-action plaintiffs to settle similar litigation.

In May, the European Commission got involved, fining these memory companies a total of 331 million Euros. Samsung paid the highest amount, 145.7 million Euros. At the time, a whistle-blower at Micron revealed to regulators the scheme; thus Micron was not fined by the EU.

But the Oracle litigation reinstitutes action against Micron and is a separate spin-off of a U.S. Department of Justice investigation. In 2005, Samsung pled guilty in the United States to price fixing and paid a $300 million fine in a settlement with the DOJ.

DRAM, commonly used in servers of all types for boot-up and other purposes, stores each bit of data in a separate capacitor within an integrated circuit. Since real capacitors leak charge, the information eventually fades unless the capacitor charge is refreshed periodically. Because of this refresh requirement, it is considered a dynamic memory as opposed to SRAM (static random access memory).

Chris Preimesberger Chris Preimesberger was named Editor-in-Chief of Features & Analysis at eWEEK in November 2011. Previously he served eWEEK as Senior Writer, covering a range of IT sectors that include data center systems, cloud computing, storage, virtualization, green IT, e-discovery and IT governance. His blog, Storage Station, is considered a go-to information source. Chris won a national Folio Award for magazine writing in November 2011 for a cover story on and CEO-founder Marc Benioff, and he has served as a judge for the SIIA Codie Awards since 2005. In previous IT journalism, Chris was a founding editor of both IT Manager's Journal and and was managing editor of Software Development magazine. His diverse resume also includes: sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, covering NCAA and NBA basketball, television critic for the Palo Alto Times Tribune, and Sports Information Director at Stanford University. He has served as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering Stanford and NCAA tournament basketball, since 1983. He has covered a number of major events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a Presidential press conference at the White House in 1993, the Emmy Awards (three times), two Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl, several NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, a Formula One Grand Prix auto race, a heavyweight boxing championship bout (Ali vs. Spinks, 1978), and the 1985 Super Bowl. A 1975 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Chris has won more than a dozen regional and national awards for his work. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four children and reside in Redwood City, Calif.Follow on Twitter: editingwhiz

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