A special master appointed by a judge ruled that Intel's business practices, including giving OEMs discounts to limit their use of AMD products, did not harm consumers, and in some cases those discounts were passed onto consumers. He denied the request for class-action status for the lawsuit.
Intel got a rare win in court when a special master in a case filed by
consumers ruled that he had found no evidence that consumers had been hurt by
the giant chip maker's business practice of giving discounts to computer
Special Master Vincent Poppiti, ruling on the case, which was
filed in U.S. District Court in Delaware,
rejected a motion that would have allowed the case to go forward as a
In his 112-page ruling made July 28, Poppiti said that while
Intel may have given discounts and rebates to PC makers in hopes of persuading
the OEMs to limit the use of chips from rival Advanced Micro Devices, there was
no evidence that consumers were harmed by the action.
He ruled that the systems makers had the discretion in how they
used that money and that some had used the money to help lower the prices of
some of their products.
Intel has been besieged by complaints and lawsuits filed by regulatory
bodies over what the agencies say were business practices designed to unfairly
hinder competition from AMD. Regulators
claim that Intel used incentives, including discounts and rebates, as well as
threats, to influence OEMs
, Hewlett-Packard and IBM to
limit their use of AMD products in their
The chip maker was fined by the European Union last year for
$1.45 billion, a fine that Intel is appealing. The company also faces lawsuits
filed by the N.Y. Attorney General's Office and the Federal Trade Commission. Intel
and the FTC
are in negotiations to settle that case.
In addition, Intel also settled its legal disputes with AMD
in December in an agreement that included a $1.25 billion payment to its
smaller rival. Intel also is being sued by graphics chip maker Nvidia.
Throughout all this, Intel executives have claimed that while
the company has been aggressive in its business practices, it has not acted
unfairly or violated antitrust laws. They also have argued that consumers have
benefited from the company's discounts.
Plaintiffs in the case before Poppiti were seeking class-action
status, claiming that consumers were harmed by these practices.
However, Poppiti dismissed that claim, saying that the fact
that some OEMs passed savings on to consumers showed that there was no "common
impact" resulting from Intel's business practices. He also called an expert
witness for the plaintiffs unreliable.
The plaintiffs have 21 days to object to Poppiti's ruling. A
lawyer for the plaintiffs has said he plans to file an appeal.