Intel escapes fine, agrees to restrictions in FTC deal
8/4/2010 11:01 AM EDT
Requires inclusion of PCIe
Under the terms of the settlement, Intel cannot enter into agreements or
enforce existing agreements with OEMs that require the OEMs to purchase
chips exclusively from Intel in any geography or market segment, or
requires OEMs to refuse to purchase or delay purchase of products from
Intel competitors. This precludes Intel from offering discounts on
microprocessors or threatening legal action against OEMs for not
purchasing other chips such as graphics processors from Intel.
Intel may continue to offer discounts to customers on parts in excess of a specified unit volume threshold, but the company may not offer a volume discounted price to OEMs on all parts contingent on total sales being above a specified threshold.
The terms of the settlement also specify that Intel may not deny an OEM the ability to market its products as having "Intel Inside," in the event that, for example, the product also includes graphics processors from Nvidia. The settlement also prevents Intel from withholding marketing dollars from OEMs that include competitors' products.
Intel agreed that it will include in each of its mainstream microprocessor platforms an interface to a standard PCI bus. Intel also agreed not to design any required interface for the purpose of intentionally limiting the performance of a graphics processor that would make it non-complaint with the applicable PCIe base specification. The presence of bugs or errata that would make any product non-complaint with the relevant PCIe specification will not except the company from the latter requirement, according to the settlement.
Under the terms of the settlement, Intel must also offer to amend its patent agreements with AMD, Via Technologies Inc. and Nvidia that would allow them to disclose to customers and foundry suppliers its licensed rights to Intel patents, provided that the customer or foundry agrees to keep the information confidential. The settlement requires Intel to offer other specified amendments to patent agreements with Via.
McCarron of Mercury Research (Bee Caves, Ariz.) said that ironically it was probably Via, by far the smallest of the Intel competitors named in the investigation, that got the most out of the settlement deal. "They have x86 license, and that gets expanded [in the settlement] at no cost to them," McCarron said.