For the second time in nearly three years, a coalition of news groups and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press are pushing for openness in an ongoing antitrust suit between computer industry players AMD and Intel.
In its latest bid to permeate the secrecy that has all but shut reporters out of AMD v. Intel, the media coalition filed a motion Thursday saying documents have been sealed too readily and hearing transcripts have been closed without explanation from the court.
In addition to the Reporters Committee, the brief is backed by The New York Times, Situation Publishing, Dow Jones, The Washington Post and the Computer and Communications Industry Association. AMD filed its lawsuit in 2005 alleging that Intel monopolized the microprocessor field with a stash of manipulative techniques, including exclusivity, threats of retaliation and rebates that barred customers from turning to competitors.
Intel has separately faced several international inquiries on similar suspicions. Each of those probes, and their findings, were largely held out of the public eye.
Two dozen news groups and associations signed onto a November 2005 letter the Reporters Committee sent U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Farnan Jr. making the case for transparency as he considered a protective order in the case. Nevertheless, the next year Farnan approved a sweeping order shielding reams of evidence both AMD and Intel would churn up in the discovery process.
As reported in the current issue of The News Media and the Law, the order ostensibly protects trade secrets the airing of which might jeopardize the companies’ business practices. But in effect, it seems to be far broader than that.
For instance, Thursday’s motion says, redacted from the public version of one document were allegations about Intel’s actions toward computer manufacturers — "even though the events took place so long ago that there is no likely reason that their disclosure could cause competitive damage."
The media coalition also points out in the motion that sealing a document requires meeting a higher standard than getting a protective order. If documents under a protective order are filed with the court, the motion says, they should then become public — or be subject to the higher test for sealing.
"Of course," the motion says, "litigants may not seal information merely because public disclosure will be embarrassing or will otherwise reflect poorly on them."
In sum, the coalition asks for unsealed copies of AMD and Intel’s preliminary statements and requests an order "that the parties establish to the Court’s satisfaction that the remaining redacted portions do in fact qualify for confidential treatment."