Tech Industry

Intel trial delayed until March 9

A two-week delay will allow both sides to better prepare their cases, but may also force the FTC to amend its internal rules.

The legal battle between the Federal Trade Commission and Intel has been pushed back to March 9, a two-week delay that will allow both sides to better prepare their cases, but also may force the FTC to amend its internal rules.

The administrative action filed by the FTC alleges that Intel used its dominant position in the microprocessor market to unfairly force three computer vendors--Intergraph, Digital, and Compaq--to license their intellectual property in a way that benefits Intel. Additionally, sources close to the FTC have said that the agency is investigating a broader suit that examines whether the Santa Clara, California, company's other business practices violate U.S. antitrust law.

The scope of the FTC's investigation, however, has generated a tidal wave of discovery. Hundreds of thousands--perhaps millions--of document pages have been produced in discovery, according to sources close to the case.

The FTC has also interviewed a number of third-party companies, including Intel competitors AMD and National Semiconductor, over the past year and a half with regard to its suit. Academics at the University of California and other major universities are also being lined up as expert witnesses by both sides.

Originally, the action was slated to begin on January 5, but was pushed to February 23 to accommodate the schedule of Judge James Timony and to permit for further discovery.

While the delay will allow both sides to better prepare their case, it may run afoul of internal FTC rules. Under current administrative regulations, the presiding judge must submit a written opinion within a year that the complaint was filed, according to Howard Morse, an attorney at Drinker, Biddle and Reath.

The FTC filed its action on June 8, 1997, which potentially puts Timony on a relatively tight time schedule as the hearing is expected to last for several weeks. But the agency can amend its own rules, Morse said.

Along with extending the dates , Timony directed both sides to finish turning over documents to each other by February 12 and exchange final witness lists by February 19. A pretrial hearing will be held March 5 to work out remaining issues before the trial begins the following week.

Bloomberg contributed to this report.