Intel, FTC Petition To Pause Legal Proceedings

Back in December of last year, the FTC filed an antitrust lawsuit against Intel, alleging that the CPU giant had abused its market position and limited sales of competitive products from the likes of AMD and NVIDIA. We've heard very little about the case since then, but the company and FTC have just jointly filed a request to suspend litigation proceedings until July 22 in order to evaluate a proposed deal.

No details have been made public regarding the proposed resolution and both Intel and AMD have refused to discuss the arrangement. An unnamed spokesperson from NVIDIA told Mercury News that the GPU designer was similarly in the dark. "We don't yet know details behind the FTC's announcement, so it's premature for us to comment," the company said in a prepared statement. "We remain hopeful that any settlement will recognize Intel's history of impeding competition and innovation at the expense of the American consumer." NVIDIA has its own potential stake in the antitrust case--Intel's integrated GPU business undoubtedly impinges on NVIDIA's low-end sales, and the GPU designer was vocally unhappy over Intel's decision to charge more for next-generation Ion's without a chipset than for those which came with one.

SRAM, built on Intel's upcoming 22nm manufacturing process. It's a safe bet that the company is in no hurry to share either its manufacturing advances or its CPU technology.

If Intel and the FTC reach a settlement, it will mean the CPU giant is one step closer to clearing its docket of pending antitrust accusations. Thus far, the company has avoided admitting wrongdoing. AMD settled its antitrust lawsuit against Intel last November for $1.25 billion in cash, while the European Commission fined it $1.45 billion in May 2009 for engaging in anti-competitive activities. Intel has appealed the decision in the Court of First Instance and continues to deny it engaged in any anti-competitive behavior that harmed consumers in any way.

If Intel and the FTC settle, the only antitrust investigation left will be New York State's. It's virtually certain that the state would settle this investigation as well. The fact that an offer is on the table, however, doesn't necessarily mean the Federal Trade Commission is caving on any front. When it first filed the complaint, the government watchdog indicated it would consider forcing Intel to license its CPU technology to other interested parties. That's the last sort of remedy Intel would ever want—if the FTC puts that bargaining chip on the table, the CPU manufacturer is likely to jump hurdles to evade it.