NVIDIA GeForce Partner Program Illegal?

An article/editorial on [H]ardOCP takes a critical look at NVIDIA's GeForce Partner Program, saying this "impacts consumer choice," and suggests there may be aspects of the program that are not just anticompetitive, but illegal (thanks NamecaF). The GPP seems to be a typical marketing program, and it does not require participants to exclusively use NVIDIA hardware, but [H]ardOCP says their digging, which they admit was prompted by a suggestion from NVIDIA competitor AMD, turns up a different story:
Admittedly, GPP sounds like a good program on the surface, but after digging into documentation and interviews with OEMs and AIBs in the past weeks, the warm and fuzzies quickly subside. HardOCP has been in the computer hardware review business for over 20 years now, and we have made an abundance of contacts along the way. In order for our preparation to write this article, we have spent the last three weeks talking to OEMs and AIBs in the industry that do business with NVIDIA on a large scale. Given how GPP is all about "transparency," you might think that those OEMs and AIBs would be chomping at the bit to get some free press on how those companies are part of the GPP program.

We have contacted seven companies about their part in NVIDIA GPP and not one of the seven would talk to us on the record if they spoke to us about it at all. The ones that did speak to us have done so anonymously, in fear of losing their jobs, or having retribution placed upon them or their companies by NVIDIA. All of the people that I did interview at AIBs and at OEMs did however have the same thoughts on GPP. 1.) They think that it has terms that are likely illegal. 2.) GPP is likely going to tremendously hurt consumers' choices. 3.) It will disrupt business with the companies that they are currently doing business with, namely AMD and Intel.

The crux of the issue with NVIDIA GPP comes down to a single requirement in order to be part of GPP. In order to have access to the GPP program, its partners must have its "Gaming Brand Aligned Exclusively With GeForce." I have read documents with this requirement spelled out on it.
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Re: NVIDIA GeForce Partner Program Illegal?
Mar 11, 2018, 13:45
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Re: NVIDIA GeForce Partner Program Illegal? Mar 11, 2018, 13:45
Mar 11, 2018, 13:45
 
This sounds like a seriously anti-competitive move. The brand is a huge issue. If Nvidia is pushing companies like Asus to stop using the Asus name with AMD cards that is a big issue.

Asus has a brand "Republic of Gamers", but let's be honest who even looks at that. The real brand is Asus. Then what about MSI? They don't have additional branding. They just call all their cards MSI.

The accusations that Nvidia is holding back GPUs from manufacturers that don't join the program is a big red flag too.

Plus Nvidia has a history with anti-competitive practices too. Look at how they used gameworks as a way to prevent AMD from seeing games and optimizing them until post-release. They've come close to the line before and they just may have crossed it this time.

Problem is by the time they finally get punished for it, they will have made way more than the penalties. It will be just like when Intel was threatening OEMs to cut all chip discounts if they dared offer AMD CPUs in their products (the Pentium 4 days.) AMD finally had the better product and was positioned to make huge gains. Whatever fines Intel got were piddling. They stopped a competitor from stepping up to their tier.

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