New York State antitrust investigators aren't going to get the documents they want to see concerning Intel's settlement with Nvidia, according to a Delaware judge.
Intel sued Nvidia in 2009 for using an Intel chip design without paying a license fee. Nvidia countersued, alleging the design at issue was covered under a 2004 licensing agreement between the parties. The suit settled early this year for $1.5 billion. In the course of the litigation, Intel submitted confidential documents, to which the court applied a protective order upon settlement.
Now, as part of a broader antitrust probe into Intel's activities, New York authorities want access to some of those confidential documents. Vice Chancellor Leo Strine, Jr., called the request "Orwellian."
Strine [suggested] that investigators wanted to obtain confidential Intel information from the lawsuit, turn it over to Nvidia officials who have never seen it before, then ask them what they think about it. "You're trying to make them your sled dog. This is ridiculous," Strine said. "Do you think that was Intel's expectation, that Nvidia could just turn around and funnel stuff to whoever they wish?"
That's not to say investigators are without recourse, however. Strine indicated they are free to ask Nvidia officials who were not directly involved in the lawsuit what they otherwise observed of Intel's activities in the ordinary course of business.
If, as investigators indicated in court, the information sought is information that the company has and that is available, obtaining it should not require modifying a protective order.