SanDisk brought suit against Round Rock Research in the District of Delaware last week, alleging that the patent assertion entity’s acquisition and enforcement of standard essential patents previously held by Micron Technology has violated federal and state antitrust laws and breached contractual commitments to license the patents on RAND terms. The action, Sandisk Corporation v. Round Rock Research LLC, Case No. 1:14-cv-00352, comes in the midst of two ongoing patent cases between the companies — one declaratory judgment action filed by SanDisk in the Northern District of California and the other an infringement action filed by Round Rock in Delaware.
SanDisk’s March 20, 2014 complaint alleges that Round Rock Research conspired with flash memory device manufacturer Micron Technology to acquire and subsequently monetize patents that Micron could not enforce itself due to SSO commitments. Specifically, SanDisk alleges Micron’s participation in the JEDEC Solid State Technology Association obligated Micron to disclose patents that might be relevant to JEDEC’s work, even after the adoption of a given standard and to offer participants licenses on RAND terms. SanDisk alleges that Micron failed to disclose the patents-at-issue despite their relevance to JEDEC eMMC standards and that Round Rock acquired the patents in attempt to monetize them free of Micron’s SSO obligations:
After acquiring patents from Micron, Round Rock sought from SanDisk supracompetitive, hold-up royalties for patents that Micron had never disclosed to JEDEC and that Round Rock claimed SanDisk infringed by practicing a JEDEC standard (“the eMMC standard”). When SanDisk did not capitulate to its demands, Round Rock sued seeking above-RAND royalties and treble damages based on undisclosed alleged standard-essential patents.
SanDisk further alleges that Round Rock has admitted to targeting SanDisk’s current eMMC-compliant products by acquiring patents it believed covered those devices.
By way of background as set forth in the complaint, Round Rock acquired a group of patents from Micron in 2009. Round Rock later approached SanDisk regarding these patents and made a presentation to SanDisk in October 2011, during which Round Rock claimed to have acquired patents reading on products compliant with JEDEC eMMC standard JESD84-A441. Round Rock sought “supracompetitive” royalty fees on SanDisk’s embedded flash drive products. SanDisk filed for declaratory judgment that the patents presented by Round Rock were invalid and not infringed by SanDisk. Case No. 3:11-cv-05243 (N.D. Cal.). Round Rock then acquired new patents from Micron in 2012 and filed a separate patent infringement action against SanDisk in Delaware. Case No. 1:12-cv-00569.
Since 2011, Round Rock has filed approximately 20 patent infringement actions against a variety of companies, including Acer, Amazon.com, American Apparel, ASUSTeK, Dell, Dole Foods, Fruit of the Loom, Gap, Hanes, HTC, JC Penny, Lenovo, Macy’s, Oracle, Pepsi, V F, and Wal-Mart, almost all of which were also filed in the District of Delaware.