In a federal lawsuit filed late last month, Multivideo Labs of Princeton, New Jersey, alleges that Intel crushed a new device for universal serial bus technology, because it would harm Intel's dominance in the chip market. Intel called the suit "frivolous." A universal serial bus, or USB, allows peripheral devices such keyboards or Zip drives to plug into personal computers without having to be configured first.
This is not the first time Intel, the world's largest chipmaker, has been accused of anticompetitive practices. A separate suit filed by Intergraph is scheduled to go to trial early next year in federal court in Alabama. The Huntsville, Alabama, maker of workstations alleges Intel's efforts to cut off advanced information and samples of Intel chips after a patent dispute arose violated antitrust laws.
Intergraph's accusations formed the cornerstone of an antitrust complaint filed last year by the Federal Trade Commission. Those charges were settled in March on the eve of the trial.
The judge hearing the Integraph case last week rejected a key Intel argument, holding that the chip giant did not have a license to use Intergraph's technology.
The Multivideo Labs suit alleges Intel "has assumed a dominating role" at the USB Implementers Forum, which sets standards for USB technology, and has put the dampers on a technology known as AEC, which allows peripherals to more easily connect to PCs. Multivideo, which makes AEC, is seeking at least $40 million in damages.
"By disseminating misleading information about the AEC to retailers and distributors, Intel through USB-IF has created unreasonable barriers to entry of [Multivideo's] ASIC chip and AEC interconnect products," the suit alleges. "The result of this conduct has been to discourage competition with Intel's" rival product, known as the hub chip.
Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy said the company "will vigorously defend" itself in the case, adding that "the overall case is without merit." He declined to discuss the particulars.
Specifically, Mulloy declined to discuss allegations that Intel is "using USB-IF's name to veil efforts to deter market acceptance of the AEC." Multivideo claims that at least two Intel employees, engineer Ralph Smith and Stephen Whalley, who also serves at USB-IF's chairman, were influential in keeping the group's official seal of approval off of the AEC.
A spokeswoman from Multivideo did not return a phone call seeking comment. The suit, which was reported earlier by Cal Law, was filed in federal court in New York.