The US Supreme Court has ruled that regulators for the European Commission are entitled to confidential documents sealed as part of a US lawsuit involving Intel.
However, the court instructed a lower court to decide whether it is appropriate to award those documents in support of a complaint filed by Advanced Micro Devices.
The decision upholds an appeals court ruling that documentation related to a patent lawsuit filed against Intel by Intergraph is fair game as part of an investigation by the Commission's Bureau of Competition prompted by AMD. The documents were sealed as part of a settlement between Intel and Intergraph.
AMD believed the documents to contain evidence that will support its contention that Intel has unfairly used marketing programmes in the European Union to stifle competition. Earlier this month, the Bureau of Competition revived a dormant investigation into Intel's marketing practices.
Under US law, individuals or corporations are required to provide testimony or documents "for use in a proceeding in a foreign or international tribunal ... upon the application of any interested person".
The Supreme Court ruled that AMD is qualified to stand as an "interested person" under the law, and that the commission has judicial powers, both of which were contested by Intel.
Intel had objected to AMD's request because it was not the subject of any formal litigation filed by AMD. Intel argued that if any party that complained about a company's business practices was entitled to confidential documents, practically anyone could obtain those documents.
To that point, the court ruled that the district court is authorised to provide the documents, but is not required to do so.
The case will now head back to the US District Court for the County of Santa Clara, where the district court judge will hear arguments over whether it is appropriate to compel Intel to provide the documents, said Chuck Mulloy, an Intel spokesman.
Tom Krazit writes for IDG News service