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Intergraph, Compaq won't fight FTC ruling

The companies say they won't file objections to the settlement in the Federal Trade Commission's antitrust case against Intel.

    The deal settling the Federal Trade Commission's antitrust case against Intel appears destined to sail toward final approval by early summer.

    Representatives at both Intergraph and Compaq Computer, two companies alleged to have been harmed by Intel's predatory conduct, indicated that they will not file objections to the consent order, which is now open for a 60-day comment period.

    "We believe the proposed consent decree between the FTC and Intel addresses the interests of the industry and most importantly, our customers," a Compaq spokesman said. "Compaq therefore supports the proposed settlement."

    An Intergraph spokeswoman likewise said the Huntsville, Alabama, maker of workstations would not file objections.

    In a complaint filed last June, the FTC alleged Intel was a monopolist that forced customers to sign away valuable patent rights or lose access to crucial Intel product information and samples. Intel did not dispute most of the factual allegations, but said it was not a monopolist and that its actions were completely legal.

    The settlement, which was announced a day before the two sides were to square off in court, was tentatively approved Wednesday in a 3-0 vote by the agencies commissioners. It prevents Intel from withholding products and product information from customers that assert intellectual property rights, as long as they agree not to seek court orders prohibiting the sale or use of Intel chips. It is expected to receive final approval a few weeks after the comment period closes, possibly as early as July 4.

    William Kovacic, an antitrust specialist at George Washington University, said even when there is opposition, commissioners almost never derail a proposed settlement.

    "It is exceedingly rare that a consent decree would be abandoned completely, and it is unusual for proposed consent decrees to be modified in light of public comments," Kovacic said. "The typical case is that the consent decree is entered as originally proposed."

    Nonetheless, the settlement could still receive criticism from academics or trade groups, who may argue it is unfair to smaller companies that do business with Intel.

    "It seems to me there are some big holes in" the proposed settlement, said Richard H. Stern, a Washington, D.C., patent attorney, who criticizes the settlement for not protecting Intel customers that seek injunctions against the company's chips. "Your bargaining position for collecting a royalty depends in part on your asking for an injunction."

    The FTC may receive objections to the settlement, Stern said, but "none that I think the government is going to listen to."