July 15, 2010

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Memory game
You may have already won
By John “jaQ” Andrews  jandrews@hippopress.com

It’s not often that I’m handed a topic on a silver platter, but there I was, innocently reading a Sunday magazine, when it suddenly appeared.

SRAM!

That’s Static Random Access Memory. There’s a big class-action lawsuit going on against a bunch of manufacturers of this memory, claiming that they “conspired to fix, raise and maintain prices of SRAM in violation of antitrust, unfair competition and unjust enrichment laws.” Most of the defendants — including Hynix, Micron, NEC, Mitsubishi, Renesas, Toshiba and Etron — have already agreed to settle, while not admitting wrongdoing. Samsung and Cypress haven’t settled and are still being pursued mercilessly by packs of lawyers.

Why should you care? Well, SRAM is one of those things that shows up just about everywhere. If it’s electronic, it probably has at least a little bit of SRAM. Computer processors and hard drives use a lot as cache memory, serving as a buffer between themselves and the rest of your computer. Digital cameras with built-in storage might use it as a faster alternative to flash memory. Car computers, cell phones and networking equipment keep information on it too. Even very cheap electronic toys might use a small amount to hold a few instructions at a time.

The likelihood that you’ve purchased some product with SRAM in the period covered by the lawsuit — between Nov. 1, 1996 and Dec. 31, 2006, — is incredibly high. So you’re due some cash money, right?

Not so fast.

The settling defendants will be paying out $25,422,000. If you’re thinking that there are probably quite a few more than 25,422,000 people that have purchased a car, computer, camera or toy in the United States during the 10 years in question, you’re absolutely right. The official line is that maybe individual consumers would get checks too small to bother, so maybe they’ll end up donating the money to some charities or something, and those charities will maybe have to use that money to benefit the people affected.

No one’s going to bother sending you a check for less than a dollar. Even with bulk rate postage, expenses would eat up that settlement before a single cent got to you or me. Besides, how would they even know to send one to you?

Oddly enough, you (yes, you) are already included in the class. That doesn’t mean the lawyers are using your name or anything; it just means that once any settlement or judgment is final, you can’t sue one of these companies for the same reason unless you specifically opt out beforehand. For that reason, I’m guessing any money will go the charity route. These charities might sell subsidized computers to low income families or provide computer training or something like that.

There still might be money coming from Samsung and Cypress, but probably not a huge amount. Besides, lawyers charge a lot. In this case, the lawyers will be requesting “an amount not to exceed one-third of the total settlement funds plus reimbursement of their costs and expenses.” Generous of them, eh?

I am, of course, not a lawyer, and none of this constitutes legal advice, yada yada. For more information or to opt out, you can visit the suit’s website:www.IndirectSRAMCase.com.


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