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Regulators 'violating Intel's human rights'

As the New York Times pointed out in an excellent editorial this week, human rights in Europe are designed to protect the powerless and to guarantee them a day in open court. Wait a minute. Calling a company with annual sales of $38bn powerless is, well, absurd. I have no idea how many lawyers Intel employs, but you can bet it doesn't have to resort to the services of a public defender.

(Because neither I nor other reporters have access to EU filings and Intel isn't commenting, I've had to piece the most recent legal narrative together from a number of sources, including the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.)

Two decades of bullying

I started writing about the PC industry in the early 1990s when AMD was in terrible shape, burdened with the reputation of being a low-end, copycat manufacturer and just beginning to design chips worthy of consideration by a major manufacturer.

Even then, the industry was full of stories that Intel salespeople would threaten computer makers that had the temerity to even consider a deal with AMD. Although the charges seemed credible, if for no other reason than they were so widespread, it was a source of ongoing frustration to me and other technology journalists that none of the manufacturers who claimed to be victims of monopolistic bullying would speak on the record or provide solid documentation to back their claims.

Things have changed, of course, and companies have gone on the record. The fine was the largest ever for any breach of competition law in the European Union; previous records were levied mostly on companies involved in cartels.

I have great respect for Intel's prowess as a designer and manufacturer of microprocessors. The company's CPUs have quite literally been the engine of innovations that have changed the world. I think it is more than able to survive and thrive on its own merits, without resorting to illegal bullying. Consumers and smaller companies deserve the protection the EU is providing.

Intel has every right to defend itself and to appeal. But playing this ridiculous human rights card sounds very much like an implicit admission of guilt.

See also:

Intel fined €1.06bn in EC antitrust case

Intel appeals €1bn antitrust ruling


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