US CHIP MAKER SUED BY ATARI FOR EXPLOITING COMPONENT SHORTAGES

US CHIP MAKER SUED BY ATARI FOR EXPLOITING COMPONENT SHORTAGES

Atari Corp., a Sunnyvale, Calif., personal computer maker, has accused Micron Technology Inc., of Boise, Idaho, of exploiting a shortage of computer memorychips to get a higher price.

Atari's action escalates a month-long dispute over limited availability of memory chips - vital computer components that are used to store data. The shortage has forced computer companies to curtail production of some models and has nearly doubled the price of certain memory chips in the past year.Atari's lawsuit, filed this week in federal District Court in San Jose, charges that Micron breached its contract and violated antitrust laws when it canceled a telephone order for 3 million dynamic random-access memory, or D- RAM, chips. Micron later tried to offer an unspecified number of chips to Atari at a much higher price, Atari said.

Opponents of import restrictions, particularly in the textile and apparel industries, have argued persistently that such restrictions give domestic manufacturers the opportunity to raise prices.

Atari's lawsuit is apparently the first time a major computer company has resorted to court action over the current memory-chip shortage. Atari's gripe, a common one among computer makers, is that a 1986 semiconductor trade agreement between the United States and Japan led to the chip shortage and to steep price increases.

The agreement arose out of charges that Japanese firms were selling chips in the United States at unfairly low prices. It established minimum prices for certain imported Japanese semiconductors, including some D-RAMs.

Micron declined to comment on Atari's lawsuit. We haven't seen it, we haven't been served, so we can't comment, said Larry Grant, general counsel at Micron.

The Boise company is one of only two major U.S. companies that produce D- RAMs for the open market. Most of the major suppliers are Japanese and South Korean.