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AMD steps up Intel 'coercion' claim

Chip giant asks court to reveal rival's activities

AMD has asked a US court to compel Intel to disclose documents relating to its activities outside the US, as part of an ongoing antitrust lawsuit.

The case revolves around AMD's allegations that Intel used offers of exclusive deals and threats of price increases to maintain a monopoly in the worldwide market for x86 microprocessors in the four years to June 2005, when AMD filed its complaint.

AMD wants Intel to produce documents that, AMD says, will show evidence of coercion and other misconduct directed at microprocessor customers outside the US.

The company suffered a setback in its case on 26 September, when Judge Joseph Farnan ruled that the US District Court for the District of Delaware did not have jurisdiction over claims arising from sales to customers of microprocessors made at AMD's plant in Germany.

However, Intel is using that ruling to justify withholding documents relating to sales to US customers of chips made at the German plant, and of chips made in the US sold to customers elsewhere, AMD spokesman Michael Silverman said. The 26 September ruling should only apply to the damages that AMD can seek, and not to the scope of the discovery process, he said.

AMD's motion concludes: "Evidence of Intel's foreign exclusionary conduct is directly relevant to proof of AMD's claims for damages based on lost sales to US customers and in the export trade. AMD's motion to compel Intel to produce foreign conduct documents... should accordingly be granted."

Intel disputed that point, saying the two sides had already agreed to file opposing briefs as a way to clarify Farnan's ruling. This latest round of legal jousting is simply part of the long march toward the trial.

"The notion that Intel is refusing to hand over documents is gilding the lily, to say the least," said Intel spokesman Chuck Molloy.

But AMD insisted that this technical point reflects the underlying issue of the case itself.

"To what extent can American businesses competing with other American businesses get away with what Americans would view as unlawful and anticompetitive conduct, solely because it occurs offshore?" asked Chuck Diamond, an AMD lawyer from the firm of O'Melveny and Myers LLP.

"The one thing we agree with Intel on is that this is a global market. But you can't monopolise part of a market. It's like squeezing jelly," Diamond said. If a firm held prices unnaturally high in one region, traders would simply shop elsewhere, he explained.

Silverman expects a final decision on the motion to compel in early December, with the trial beginning in April 2009.


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