Intel asks EU for more time to prep antitrust defense

October 8, 2007, 6:31 PM UTC

When Microsoft (MSFT) lost its European antitrust appeal last month, it solidified the European Commission’s reputation as the toughest regulator in the high-tech world. Now, just weeks later, chip giant Intel (INTC) is asking for more time to defend itself against the regulator’s charges that it unfairly slashed prices to lock rivals out of its markets.

VIDEO: AMD VS. INTEL

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kbb7w-f0lls&rel=1]
Click video above to play: AMD CEO Hector Ruiz talks about Intel.

An official from the European Union’s executive arm said today that the EU had received Intel’s request, and that it is under consideration. Intel’s deadline to present its defense would otherwise be October 18. (There was some confusion on this point; many media outlets thought October 8 was the deadline, but Intel has clarified this.)

Intel’s tactics have allegedly included paying computer makers to limit their use of rival Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) chips, and even selling chips at a loss to lock AMD out of major contracts. Regulators in Japan and South Korea have already brought similar accusations against Intel; Intel has said it will fight all of the charges.

Intel is arguing that the chip business is more akin to the no-holds-barred world of Ultimate Fighting than to genteel boxing.

Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy told me Intel believes the microprocessor market is functioning normally. In the past, the company has said its conduct has been pro-competition and beneficial to consumers.

So why is Intel missing its deadline to mount a defense? That’s not clear, but it could have something to do with the appeals court’s judgment four weeks ago. The language in that judgment made it clear that the court believes dominant companies have a special obligation to make sure its tactics don’t hinder competition.

That language may have placed a new burden on Intel to prove that its actions not only were normal for the rough-and-tumble chip market, but that they also fit the type of behavior regulators expect from a dominant player.