Intel may soon be obliged to hand over internal documents to a European Commission (EC) anti-trust investigation.
A US Supreme Court yesterday paved the way for such a move when it said US federal courts were authorised to force a company to submit documents made public in a US case to foreign jurisdictions.
The ruling follows legal action brought against Intel by arch-rival AMD. AMD alleges Intel's European operation engaged in anti-competitive behaviour. It claims that 60,000-odd pages of documentation submitted by Intel to the US court will demonstrate the validity of its allegations, and wants Intel to be forced to hand the files over to EC investigators.
On 1 October 2003, AMD asked the San Jose District Court to force Intel to release to EC investigators expert witness testimonies presented during Intergraph's anti-trust and patent violation action against the chip giant. The court agreed and said Intel had to hand the documentation over.
However, Intel claims that while US law allows documents made public in one case to be used in another, the EC investigation is not a legal action and thus is not covered by this US legal provision.
"They're seeking to get access to documents that are under court-ordered seal in discovery for litigation that doesn't exist," Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy said at the time.
Earlier this year, Intel appealed against the San Jose District Court ruling, an appeal that went to the Supreme Court on 20 April.
Since then, the EC has re-opened its investigation into Intel's behaviour following a renewed complaint from AMD, which has also supplied new evidence.
Yesterday's ruling paves the way for AMD to enforce the October District Court ruling. In a 7:1 verdict, the Supreme Court said federal courts can allow case documents to be made available to "a proceeding in a foreign or international tribunal, including criminal investigations conducted before formal accusation".
In short, the San Jose District Court was right to come to the decision it did. However, it's now up to that Court to enforce its original ruling. ®