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Key issues in complicated case

The FTC and Intel reached a surprise preliminary agreement. The case had been focusing on several contentious issues.

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  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.

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See special coverage: Intel in legal vise


The FTC and Intel reached a surprise preliminary agreement. The case had been focusing on several contentious issues.

Does AMD's success mean Intel doesn't have a monopoly?
Intel will point to AMD's surge in the past year as evidence that no monopoly exists. The FTC will argue that Intel still has 70 percent of the market--presumptive evidence of a monopoly--and that in any event, AMD has not hurt Intel in its main markets for performance processors.

Does it matter if competition was hurt?
Intel claims that the FTC has no case because companies such as AMD were not hurt when Intel pulled its advance samples and product information from Compaq, Intergraph, and Digital. The FTC, meanwhile, says it doesn't have to show damage to competition, just that Intel acts increased the likelihood of less competition. Again, the FTC's case hinges on the court accepting the broader standard.

From what company did Intergraph acquire the Clipper patents?
If Intergraph acquired the patents from National Semiconductor, as Intel asserts, a cross-licensing deal between Intel and National gives Intel "absolute immunity" from any patent claims over the Clipper technology. The FTC and Intergraph, meanwhile, maintain that Intergraph in fact obtained the patents from Fairchild Semiconductor.

What were Digital's motives?
The FTC will claim Intel pulled NDAs from Digital to retaliate against that company's filing of an intellectual property lawsuit. But Digital did pretty well in the settlement, offloading a manufacturing facility that was draining its resources. Was Digital, Intel will ask, really a victim?

When is a customer always a customer?
The FTC will claim that Intel's market position means that it can't simply stop selling microprocessors to an established client. Intel says otherwise. Silicon Valley business practices hang in the balance.