CHIPMAKER Intel has received a helping hand in its fight against a record €1.06bn antitrust fine after a top European judge said on Thursday that the case should be reviewed.
Intel was slapped with the record fine in 2009 after the European Commission (EC) found the firm guilty of abusing its market dominance by engaging in illegal practices to exclude competitors, namely AMD, from the CPU market.
The ruling said that Intel offered hidden rebates to OEMs on the condition that they bought all, or almost all, their CPUs from Intel, and paid off manufacturers to stop or delay the launch of products containing competitors' chips.
Intel lost an appeal in 2014 to overturn the ruling, but the company hasn't given up and launched another appeal in June arguing that the EC failed to analyse "all relevant circumstances" to see whether the rebates shut out rivals including AMD.
Intel received a major boost to its case on Thursday when top European court adviser advocate general Nils Wahl questioned whether there was substantial evidence that the firm's actions actually harmed competition.
"Intel's appeal against the imposition of a €1.06bn fine for abuse of its dominant position should be upheld. The case should be referred back to the General Court for a fresh review," Wahl said in a non-binding recommendation seen by Reuters.
He explained that the General Court failed to establish that the rebates and payments offered by Intel were anti-competitive, or that certain deals between Intel and Lenovo and HP harmed consumers, as the firms were still allowed under their agreements with Intel to purchase significant quantities of x86 processors from AMD.
Wahl also doubted whether Intel's market position at the time was dominant enough to be abused.
The European Court of Justice, which follows the adviser's opinion in the majority of cases, is expected to rule in the coming months.
It's not all good news for Intel, though. Researchers in the US revealed that a flaw in the firm's Haswell processors could be abused by hackers to circumvent a security mechanism intended to prevent stack overflows and arbitrary code execution.
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