Groups Seek Info on Intel-AMD Antitrust Case

News organizations and the Computer & Communications Industry Association ask judge to unseal records in Advanced Micro Device's antitrust case against Intel. The New York Times, The Register, Dow Jones, The Washington Post, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and the Computer & Communications Industry Association all claim the original protective order is too broad and the public deserves more details on Advanced Micro Device's contention that Intel operates an illegal monopoly on microprocessors and used a questionable rebate program to coerce customers into avoiding using competitors' products. Intel has already been fined $25 million in South Korea for similar antitrust behavior by giving rebates to Samsung Electronics in return for not buying Advanced Micro Device's microprocessor chips.

The three-year-old gag order imposed on Advanced Micro Devices' antitrust lawsuit against Intel should be lifted, according to an Aug. 21 court filing by media outlets the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and Computer & Communications Industry Association.

AMD originally filed the antitrust case against Intel in 2005, claiming Intel operates a microprocessor monopoly and used a rebate program to persuade customers into avoiding competitors' products. Intel sells 80 percent of the microprocessors sold in the market and controls 90 percent of the revenue in the microprocessor market.

The judge in the Delaware case issued a 2005 gag order on all participants in the case to protect trade secrets.

"We trust the court can find a way to protect the companies' trade secrets, without blocking all information on the allegations in this case," Ed Black, CCIA president and CEO, said in a statement. "Intel has already been fined $25 million in South Korea for engaging in this illegal, anticompetitive rebate program. We would hope evidence related to that illegal behavior and business practice would not be something anyone would want to or could afford to emulate."

In addition to the South Korean antitrust fine, which Intel is appealing, and the AMD charges against the chip maker, Intel also faces a "statement of objections" filed by the European Commission in 2007 claiming Intel violated European Union antitrust laws by selling chips below cost to major customers to limit the use of AMD chips.

In addition, the New York attorney general launched an investigation in January into whether Intel used rebates, predatory pricing and exclusive contracts to harm AMD's rival market position. In 2005, Japan's Fair Trade Commission found Intel violated antitrust regulations through a rebate scheme involving Toshiba and others designed to limit AMD sales.

"The public has a well-established right to observe what is going on in our courts, whether it is a criminal trial or a business dispute," CCIA attorney David Finger said. "Each in its own way has an important impact on society and public access promotes confidence that justice is being done fairly."

The CCIA and others involved in seeking a lift of the gag order in the Delaware case contend the protective order has been too broadly applied, with the result being virtually no documents in the case are available to the public or the media.

"For example, Intel's response to the plaintiffs' [AMD] statement filed on May 15, most parts which allege Intel's individual behaviors toward the computer manufacturers were redacted, even though the events took place so long ago that there is no likely reason that their disclosure could cause competitive damage," the court filing states. "Similarly, some redactions clearly contain nothing more than lists of third party employees. Identifying personnel in companies not party to this litigation cannot reasonably be construed to cause competitive injury, nor does such information implicate personal privacy interests, yet this information has also been redacted from public view."

The filing adds, "Of course, litigants may not seal information merely because public disclosure will be embarrassing or will otherwise reflect poorly on them."