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HP recruiting EU in its Itanium fight against Oracle

It's pushing European antitrust regulators to review the way Oracle decided to cut off support for Intel's Itanium processor.

Hewlett-Packard is calling in reinforcements from Europe to help it in its latest battle against Oracle.

The PC maker has asked European Union antitrust officials to investigate whether Oracle acted improperly by ending support for Intel's Itanium microprocessor, according to Reuters.

In June, HP launched a lawsuit against Oracle, alleging that the database giant's decision to stop making software for Itanium was simply an attempt to drive business away from HP and toward Oracle. Oracle had announced in March that it would no longer develop software for the chip. But HP has been heavily invested in using Itanium in business servers and other high-performance systems for its enterprise customers.

HP and Intel are also both bound by contract to continue selling Itanium processors and servers over the next several years, according to HP, which has labeled Oracle's action a "calculated effort to thwart competition from HP and harm its customers." Further, HP said in August that Oracle's action has already hurt sales of its mission-critical systems.

In its defense, Oracle claims that it ended support for Itanium based on plans by both HP and Intel to stop working on the chip, which has been portrayed as a dying technology. However, HP and Intel have denied such plans. In response, Oracle believes HP and Intel cooked up a secret agreement to keep the chip on the market.

"HP has secretly contracted with Intel to keep churning out Itaniums so that HP can maintain the appearance that a dead microprocessor is still alive," Oracle said in a court filing.

The decision to enlist the aid of the EU was revealed yesterday in a court hearing in San Jose, Calif., by lawyers for both HP and Oracle.

"They are going literally around the world to every antitrust jurisdiction, trying to say we're trying to put them out of business," Oracle attorney Daniel Wall said, according to Reuters.

Many U.S. tech giants have often bumped into trouble with the EU over antitrust concerns. So it's an ironic but calculated move that HP would try to enlist European aid in its latest legal battle.

Despite attempts by Santa Clara Superior Court Judge James Kleinberg to get the two combatants to settle the case, attorneys for both sides seem intent on taking it to court. A trial date has been set for April 2, 2012.

An HP representative released a statement to CNET, saying that HP "is pursuing all avenues to enforce Oracle's commitments to HP and our shared customers, and will continue to take actions to protect its customers' best interests. It is our hope that Oracle will honor its commitments to HP and to our shared customers."

A spokesman for Intel told CNET that "the company is not party to this litigation, so we therefore will not comment on it." But he added that "we've previously said that we have multiple generations of Itanium microprocessors currently under development."

An Oracle representative declined to comment.

Updated at 7:45 a.m. PT with statement from HP and again at 10:15 a.m. with statement from Intel..