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FTC vs. Intel: Long, winding road

A timeline of key events involving the companies in the FTC's antitrust action against Intel, which appears to have been settled.


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Key issues

  FTC vs. Intel
The FTC had been focusing on Intel's relationship with computer makers Intergraph, Digital Equipment, and Compaq, alleging that Intel threatened to withhold crucial technical information from the companies unless they licensed their intellectual property in ways that benefited Intel.

Intel doesn't deny taking action against the three companies but says it violated no laws.

  More coverage
See special coverage: Intel in legal vise



1993 Intel chief executive Andy Grove meets with Jim Meadlock, Intergraph CEO, and persuades him to adopt Intel chips for future Intergraph workstations. Like most workstation vendors at the time, Intergraph was using its own processors.

The FTC launches an investigation into Intel business practices.

1994 Intergraph, a second-tier workstation manufacturer, starts to use Intel chips exclusively in its workstations, becoming the first traditional workstation vendor to do so.

Intel expands its microprocessor business by more aggressively marketing chipsets and motherboards. In November, Compaq sues Packard Bell, alleging that the Intel motherboards inside Packard Bell computers infringe Compaq patents. Intel eventually becomes a defendant in the case.

The FTC notifies Intel CEO Grove that it found no evidence of any violations and suspends investigation.

1995 Intel introduces the Pentium Pro chip, aimed at servers and workstations. Digital Equipment later claims the chip infringes 10 of its patents associated with its Alpha processor.

In May, Intel becomes a defendant in Compaq's patent infringement suit against Packard Bell and withholds early technical information Compaq needs to design computers around Intel chips.

1996 In January, after lengthy negotiations, Intel and Compaq sign a cross-license agreement, which gives Intel rights to Compaq's motherboard designs. Compaq settles its lawsuit with Packard Bell.

By mid-year, Intel enters into routine discussions with Intergraph and other computer makers concerning the forthcoming AGP bus used for graphics capabilities. As part of the discussions, Intel asks Intergraph to license certain technologies. The FTC and Intergraph allege that the companies' working relationship suffers as a result.

In December, Intergraph notifies major OEMs that Intel technology incorporated into their machines may infringe Intergraph's patents

1997 In spring, formal cross-licensing negotiations between Intel and Intergraph start but steadily deteriorate. Intel allegedly presses for a royalty-free license. When talks break down, Intel withholds from Intergraph advance information on its products and microprocessor bugs. Intergraph delays the release of some workstations, which it blames on Intel.

In November, Intergraph sues Intel in federal court for patent infringement and unfair business practices. A month later, Intergraph amends its complaint to include antitrust claims.

On a separate front, Digital in May sues Intel in federal court, alleging Intel's Pentium Pro infringes 10 Digital patents. Later in the year, the companies settle the suit by entering into a complex agreement, which includes a cross-license.

In September, the FTC formally launches a broad investigation into Intel, resulting in the filing of an antitrust action eight months later.

1998 In April, a federal judge hearing Intergraph's lawsuit against Intel issues a preliminary injunction that includes the extraordinary holding that advanced product information and samples are "essential" to Intergraph's business. The order requires Intel to furnish Intergraph with the information while the case continues. Intel appeals.

In June, the FTC files a narrow antitrust action alleging that Intel is a monopolist that illegally used its dominance to force Intergraph, Digital, and Compaq to license their intellectual property.

Days later, Intel countersues Intergraph for patent infringement.

Start of FTC trial is pushed back several times.

1999 March 8: Preliminary agreement reached, one day before trial was scheduled to start.