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Last Updated: Friday, 13 October 2006, 10:25 GMT 11:25 UK
Washington targets top chipmakers
South Korean walking past Samsung sign
The antitrust probe includes the industry leader, Samsung
US authorities have launched another investigation into the sales and marketing practices used by firms in the computer memory chip industry.

Samsung and Cypress Seminconductor, makers of Static Random Access Memory (SRAM) chips, are helping with the Department of Justice (DOJ) enquiries.

A previous crackdown on the Dynamic Random Access Memory (DRAM) chip market found evidence of price fixing.

It saw more than $731m (394m) in fines given to 12 people and four firms.

The two firms, among the biggest chipmakers in the world, have both confirmed that they are in contact with the DOJ about the latest investigation, into SRAM chips.

Prior concerns

The investigation will be undertaken by the Department's Antitrust Division, although it is not clear whether the enquiries are focussed on price-fixing, dumping or other practices.

Earlier this year three executives at Samsung were sentenced to between seven and eight months in prison and fined $250,000 (143,000) each after a probe into price fixing in the DRAM chip industry.

Other chipmakers fined as a result of that investigation were Elphida, Infineon and Hynix.

The case was seen as a mark of the US government's determination to maintain competitive pricing in the chipmaking sector.

SRAM chips provide rapid access to data in computer and telephone networks.

The much bigger DRAM market specialises in lower-performance chips that store data while a device is turned on.

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