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New Rambus Legal Wrangle

The company is accused of shredding documents.

Updated from 4:32 p.m. EST

The legal war between



and the rest of the chip industry flared up again Tuesday, when the company was accused of intentionally shredding documents that cast doubts on the validity of some of its patents.

In a lawsuit filed in a Virginia federal court, chipmaker



alleged that Rambus violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, in its strategy of seeking royalties from companies that make the DRAM memory chips used in personal computers.

The complaint adds another element to litigation that includes cases in various courts across the country. In January, a federal judge in San Jose, Calif., ruled that Rambus

was not guilty of unlawfully destroying documents, or spoliation, in a separate case between Rambus and South Korean chipmaker

Hynix Semiconductor


According to Micron's complaint, Rambus executives conspired to destroy any evidence that undermined legal claims it planned to make against chip companies involving its DRAM interface technology.

In 1998, the suit says, Rambus officials distributed burlap bags to all employees with instructions to collect various documents relating to the anticipated claims. According to the complaint, the so-called "shred day" yielded 185 bags and an additional 60 boxes of documents that were hauled away by a private shredding company. Rambus organized subsequent rounds of such shredding in 1999, the suit alleges.

"Believing it had substantially destroyed the harmful impeaching documents, the Rambus Group then repeatedly submitted false testimony to this and other courts," the complaint reads.

Rambus General Counsel John Danforth released a statement saying that Micron's action comes as no surprise given the company's past conduct "including apparently admitted criminal price fixing."

"We look forward to the prompt adjudication of our own patent and antitrust claims against Micron that have been pending for some time," said Danforth.

Several memory-chip makers, including Hynix,



Infineon Technologies


, have pleaded guilty to U.S. Department of Justice charges of colluding to fix prices in the DRAM market. Micron, which agreed to cooperate with the investigation, does not face government penalties in the case.

Micron designated Tuesday's suit to be filed in front of the same Eastern District of Virginia judge hearing a pending case between Rambus and Samsung. The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages as well a permanent injunction against all Rambus patent claims for which evidence was unlawfully destroyed.

Shares of Rambus closed down $1.43, or 4.8%, to $28.25 on Tuesday. Micron shares closed down 57 cents, or 3.4%, to $16.08.