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FTC, Intel resolve anti-competitive charges

David Manners

The FTC has approved a settlement with Intel that resolves charges the company illegally stifled competition in the market for computer chips.

The FTC said that Intel's conduct had the effect of "stifling innovation, limiting quality and keeping prices higher than they would otherwise be."

Intel has agreed to provisions that will open the door to renewed competition and prevent Intel from suppressing competition in the future.

The settlement goes beyond the terms applied to Intel in previous actions against the company and will help restore competition that was lost as a result of Intel's alleged past anticompetitive tactics.

At the same time, the settlement will leave the company room to innovate and offer competitive pricing.

"This case demonstrates that the FTC is willing to challenge anticompetitive conduct by even the most powerful companies in the fastest-moving industries," said Chairman Jon Leibowitz.

"By accepting this settlement, we open the door to competition today and address Intel's anticompetitive conduct in a way that may not have been available in a final judgment years from now.

"Everyone, including Intel, gets a greater degree of certainty about the rules of the road going forward, which allows all the companies in this dynamic industry to move ahead and build better, more innovative products," he concluded.

The FTC settlement applies to CPUs, GPUs and chipsets and prohibits Intel from using threats, bundled prices, or other offers to exclude or hamper competition or otherwise unreasonably inhibit the sale of competitive CPUs or GPUs.

The settlement also prohibits Intel from deceiving computer manufacturers about the performance of non-Intel CPUs or GPUs.

The settlement prevents Intel from conditioning benefits to computer makers in exchange for their promise to buy chips from Intel exclusively or to refuse to buy chips from others; and from retaliating against computer makers if they do business with non-Intel suppliers by withholding benefits from them.

In addition, the FTC settlement order will require Intel to:

1) Modify its intellectual property agreements with AMD, Nvidia, and Via so that those companies have more freedom to consider mergers or joint ventures with other companies, without the threat of being sued by Intel for patent infringement; offer to extend Via's x86 licensing agreement for five years beyond the current agreement, which expires in 2013;

2) Maintain a key interface, known as the PCI Express Bus, for at least six years in a way that will not limit the performance of graphics processing chips.

These assurances will provide incentives to manufacturers of complementary, and potentially competitive, products to Intel's CPUs to continue to innovate;

3) Disclose to software developers that Intel computer compilers discriminate between Intel chips and non-Intel chips, and that they may not register all the features of non-Intel chips.

Intel also will have to reimburse all software vendors who want to recompile their software using a non-Intel compiler.

Related Topics: Desktop PCs, VIEW ALL TOPICS

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