FTC moves to suspend antitrust hearing against Intel and discuss settlement options

Late last year, chipmaker Intel became the subject of sweeping antitrust investigations from the European Commission, the state of New York, and the US Federal Trade Commission.

Today, lawyers for both Intel and the FTC have filed a motion to suspend the trial while both parties consider potential settlement of the case, which was filed in December of 2009. The motion, according to the announcement, opens a window through July 22, when Intel and the FTC will discuss a consent order, which is currently confidential.

A consent order in a case such as this is an agreement by the defendant that he will cease any activities that a government agency deemed illegal to avoid a long and potentially expensive court case.

Though the details of the consent order are not known, the FTC's allegations against Intel are. They include:

  • "Adopting a new policy of denying interoperability for certain competitive GPUs."
  • "Making misleading statements to industry participants about the readiness of Intel's GPUs."
  • Bundling chipsets with CPUs at below-cost pricing to drive competitors such as Nvidia out of the chipset market.
  • Designing the interface between its CPU and chipsets in such a way as to prevent full interoperability with Nvidia and ATI graphics components at a time of its choosing.
  • "Encourag[ing] the industry to rely on standards that Intel controlled and represented that the standards would be fairly accessible...But Intel has delayed accessibility to the standards for its competitors so that Intel can gain a head start with its own products and wrongfully restrain competition. Intel's conduct has no offsetting, legitimate or sufficient procompetitive efficiencies but instead deters competition and enhances Intel's monopoly power in CPUs."
  • Publishing false and/or misleading whitepapers.
  • Publishing false and/or misleading benchmark claims.
  • Intentionally distributing C++ compilers and software libraries whose code would run slower on AMD CPUs than on Intel's. (Intel had promised to stop this activity as a part of its settlement with AMD a month before the FTC's complaint).

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