Intel, FTC settle on charges of anticompetitive behavior

Intel and the Federal Trade Commission announced a settlement on Wednesday on charges that the chipmaker used its dominant market position to stifle competition. The case had originally been brought against Intel in December of last year.

As a result of the settlement, Intel will be barred from offering payments to customers that choose to buy its chips exclusively. It would also not be permitted to take negative action against those who may purchase chips from competitors, nor to modify their own chips to harm competitors.

Agreements with manufacturers currently in place that go against this settlement would need to be modified, and for a period of six years that complementary components in PCs manufactured by competitors be granted access to the CPU. It would also be required to disclose that its compiler may discriminate against competing products, which in turn may result in degraded performance.

"This case demonstrates that the FTC is willing to challenge anticompetitive conduct by even the most powerful companies in the fastest-moving industries," FTC chair Jon Leibowitz said in a statement. "Everyone, including Intel, gets a greater degree of certainty about the rules of the road going forward."

FTC lawyers claimed in December that Intel had been using its clout in the industry to keep competition at bay, and using strong arm tactics to prevent companies from dealing with its competitors. This included even threatening other chip manufacturers with patent infringement lawsuits if they would merge or collaborate.

AMD has already gone after Intel for many of the same reasons, claiming its bigger rivals actions have harmed its own business. Those two companies fought for much of the last decade over that, finally settling last November.

Intel appeared relieved to get the case settled, which was becoming increasingly expensive to fight. Senior counsel Doug Melamed said in a statement that the settlement provided the company with "a framework to compete."

Wednesday's settlement will offer Intel a bit of protection. Since the charges were brought under Section 5 of the FTC Act, the settlement can not be used in private lawsuits to prove wrongdoing and liability.

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