Date Looms for AMD-Intel Antitrust Trial

AMD's antitrust suit against Intel may go to trial in 2008, but first Intel plans to challenge whether U.S. courts can even try the case.

Advanced Micro Devices is considering a 2008 trial date for its antitrust lawsuit against rival Intel—a suit that claims Intel used its position to influence PC makers to limit their purchases of AMD chips.

Intel, which was served with the suit on June 28, 2005, has other ideas.

During the companies initial conference or first meeting in Federal Court on April 20 in Wilmington, Del., to discuss the case with its presiding judge, Intel lawyers indicated that they intend to file a motion that will attempt to present evidence showing that the court does not have jurisdiction to try it.

Intel lawyers informed the presiding judge, Judge Joseph Farnan, that they plan to file a subject matter jurisdiction motion—often referred to as an Empagran—which questions whether U. S. law applies to the case, and thus whether a U.S. court has jurisdiction to try it.

The motion will argue that a good portion of the case falls outside of the jurisdiction of U.S. law, because AMD manufactures its microprocessors in Germany and assembles them in Asia and about two-thirds of them are sold outside of the United States, meaning that U.S. law may not apply to them, Intel spokesperson Chuck Mulloy said.

"We are prepared to litigate this thing—the entire case—through the end, but we think this is something important for the court to consider," he said.

The motion is due by May 2, Mulloy said.

An AMD representative said the judge cautioned Intel about filing the motion, saying such motions are rarely granted when filed early in a case, unless the facts in the motion are undisputed.

Thus, "From our point of view, its just another Intel effort to escape responsibility for their marketplace misconduct," said Drew Prairie, a spokesperson for AMD, headquartered in Sunnyvale, Calif.

Meanwhile, the lawyers began hashing out a proposed trial schedule with Judge Farnan.

They discussed a protective order—which will set a framework for protecting sensitive company information and trade secrets—as well as guidelines for handling evidence, such as documents and witness depositions, representatives from both sides said.

The trials discovery or evidence-gathering period is expected to result in mounds of documents as well as depositions from PC industry executives. The protective order will aim to keep sensitive information from public viewing.

Among the most vital dates being discussed are a May 15 deadline to submit a case management order, a May 22 deadline for each company to submit a draft protective order—which will then be subject to periods of comment by the parties involved—and a June 15 deadline for requests for discovery or evidence in the case.

Judge Farnan also set a deadline of December 31 for document production, although the parties will be able to request extensions if necessary. They expect to continue taking depositions from witnesses through 2007.

/zimages/2/28571.gifAMD releases the last of the single-core Opterons. Click here to read more.

Given that Intel has yet to file its subject matter jurisdiction motion, the next major step in the case will come when the parties meet again in court in September. Judge Farnan is expected to set a trial date at that time.

AMD has requested that the trial begin in the first quarter of 2008, while Intel has requested a date in the fall of 2008, representatives from the two companies told eWEEK.

Meanwhile, roughly 70 related class action suits filed against Intel are in the process of being consolidated. A lead law firm appointed to handle the consolidated suits has been ordered to create a joint complaint and file it by April 28. There will be an initial conference on May 4 before Judge Farnan to set a timetable for that case, Mulloy said.

"With the litigation formally underway, AMD is confident that the interest of its customers and consumers worldwide will be vindicated as Intels anticompetitive conduct is brought to light in a court of law," AMD said in a statement e-mailed to reporters.

AMDs suit, filed in Delaware, claims that Intel has violated the Sherman Antitrust Act, the Clayton Act, and the California Business and Professional Code by influencing the product plans of computer makers and therefore limiting consumers ability to choose between different types of products, AMD has said.

The suit, as filed, identified 38 companies that AMD said Intel has pressured in one way or another, including Dell and Hewlett-Packard, the worlds two largest PC makers.

Intel, based in Santa Clara, Calif., has also been under investigation by several governments, including the European Commission, which has been looking into Intels practices in the EU.

Japans Fair Trade Commission, after an investigation, ruled against Intel, saying the chip maker used its position to influence several Japanese PC manufacturers to limit or eliminate AMD chips used in their systems.

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read more about investigations into Intels policies by Japan and the EU.

Intel, in response, accepted the JFTCs recommendations, which called for it to cease practices such as offering favorable prices to companies that agree to limit their use of AMD chips. But Intel said it disagreed with the JFTCs finding of facts and with the application of the law in its recommendations.

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