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The FTC's Challenge to Intel's Cross-Licensing Practices

  • Author(s): Shapiro, Carl
  • et al.
Abstract

After an investigation lasting several months, in June 1998 the Federal Trade Commission brought an antitrust lawsuit against Intel Corporation based on Intel's conduct towards Intergraph, and similar conduct towards Digital Equipment Corporation and Compaq, all in the context of disputes where Intel was accused of patent infringement. The FTC charged that Intel's practices were an abuse of Intel's monopoly position in microprocessors. Is Intel's conduct anti-competitive and thus illegal under the antitrust laws? That is the central question explored in this paper.

An introductory section provides some background for the case by discussing the tension between intellectual property rights and antitrust law, a tension that is evident in the FTC's dispute with Intel, and by describing the role of patents in the semiconductor industry. Section 3 provides a succinct summary of the facts surrounding Intel's conduct in each of the three patent disputes identified by the FTC. Section 4 explains the FTC's theory of how Intel's conduct was anti-competitive. Section 5 presents Intel's response. Section 6 describes the settlement reached between the FTC and Intel. The final section discusses legal and economic developments since the case was settled and remarks on the lasting implications of the Intel case.

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