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Intel vs. AMD Hits Supreme Court Docket

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday will hear opening arguments in a case that pits Intel against archrival AMD and addresses questions of jurisdiction and overseas business practices.

The review stems from a petition by Intel, which recently asked the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco to reconsider a request for information from European antitrust investigators. In 2000, AMD filed a complaint with the EU Commission accusing Intel of abusing its dominant position in the Windows-capable microprocessor market and violating anti-monopoly rules in Europe.

AMD says certain information discussed during Intel's lawsuit against Intergraph is relevant to its European complaint. The 9th Circuit concluded that "the allowance of 'liberal discovery' seemed consistent with past laws: providing efficient assistance to participants in international litigation and encouraging foreign countries by example to provide similar assistance to U.S. courts."

If the Justices side with Intel, the No. 1 chipmaker won't have to reveal personal patent documents to AMD and the EC about its processors. If AMD succeeds, it could set a precedent for a wider range of discovery in cases outside of the United States.

A spokesperson for Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel was not available for comment.

AMD spokesperson Michael Simonoff said the U.S. Solicitor General's office, which oversees government litigation in the United States Supreme Court, not only filed a brief asking that Intel produce the documents, but is standing side by side AMD during the testimony before the Justices.

"We believe sealed testimony as part of the Intergraph lawsuit is relevant to the European Commission's case and we want them to have all the information available," Simonoff told internetnews.com.

AMD is painfully aware of Intel's position in the world. Intel has 80 percent of the market for chips that run PCs as well as 90 percent of revenue share worldwide. By contrast, AMD has about 16.8 percent of the market share and barely registers in the double digits when it comes to worldwide revenue share. Taiwan-based Via Technologies and Transmeta round out the top four.

Simonoff said the company could live with those types of odds if the playing field were leveled a bit. AMD's complaint includes accusing Intel of protecting its monopoly position including, "granting loyalty rebates and imposing exclusive purchasing obligations on manufacturers of personal computers (OEMs) and retailers which have a substantially foreclosing effect on the market and using price discrimination and refusal to supply necessary components, new Intel products and product information to OEMs as retribution for buying AMD."

AMD also said Intel has unfair deals with other PC platform components manufacturers to set new standards aimed at excluding competitors, in particular AMD, from access to the interface information needed to design and develop microprocessors.

So far, trade officials in North America, Europe and Japan have contacted AMD inquiring into Intel's sphere of influence. Earlier this month Japan's Fair Trade Commission took documents in an unannounced visit to three Intel offices in Tokyo.

Simonoff said AMD is not aware of any legal ties between the EC's investigation and the raid in Japan.