Judge Michael Simon, of the US District Court of Oregon, partially denied the tech giant's motion to dismiss a class-action lawsuit arising from the 2018 public disclosure of Meltdown and Spectre, the family of data-leaking chip microarchitecture design blunders.
To defend against Meltdown and Spectre, Intel and other affected vendors have had to add software and hardware mitigations that for some workloads make patched processors mildly to significantly slower. The disclosure of related flaws has continued since that time, as researchers develop variations on the initial attacks and find other parts of chips that similarly expose privileged data. It is a problem that still is not entirely solved.
Lawsuits have been consolidated into a multi-district proceeding known as "Intel Corp. CPU Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation" (3:18-md-02828-SI).”
Since 2018, Intel has been trying to get them to go away. Twice before the judge had dismissed the plaintiffs' complaint while allowing the plaintiffs to amend and refile their allegations.
This time, the judge only partially granted Intel's motion to toss the case.
Judge Simon dismissed claims based on purchases up through August 2017 because Intel was unaware of the microarchitecture vulnerabilities up to that point. But he allowed seven claims, from September 2017 onward, to proceed, finding the plaintiffs' contention that Intel delayed disclosure of the flaws to maximize holiday season sales plausible enough to allow the case to move forward.
"Based on plaintiffs' allegations, it is not clear that Intel had a countervailing business interest other than profit for delaying disclosure for as long as it did (through the holiday season), for downplaying the negative effects of the mitigation, for suppressing the effects of the mitigation, and for continuing to embargo further security exploits that affect only Intel processors," the judge wrote in his order.