Civil cases after EU fine for Intel?

The European Union's record 1 billion fine against Intel could kick-start civil cases against the legally embattled chipmaker not least because the euros head in the direction of the EU's bottom line, not AMD's.

Intel is accused of allegedly offering kickbacks to computer manufacturers, to encourage them to use its chips rather than AMD's and to delay launches of products featuring its rival's technology. The EU said Intel also offered kickbacks to a retailer in exchange for it stocking only Intel-based products.

Intel has already said it will appeal the massive fine, but analysts warned it potentially faces civil suits.

Competition lawyer Alan Davis, of Pinsent Masons, predicted a flood of civil suits. "This will open the floodgates for competitors to sue," he told his firm's tech law website "There was a complainant in this case, AMD, and without question they and other competitors will pursue a case for damages."

"The fine goes to the European Commission's coffers, not to the competitors who suffered damage to their businesses because of Intel's anti-competitive practices," he added. "What is likely to happen is that action will be started and a massive settlement will be made."

Gartner analyst Martin Reynolds also noted that AMD doesn't receive anything from the fine. "AMD does not receive any money from the fine, which accrues to the EU tax budget," he said in a statement.

He added that "the decision paves the way for civil cases against Intel, with the main case due to go to trial in Delaware in 2010." Reynolds is referencing AMD's private suit against Intel, which it filed in 2005.

Unsurprisingly, AMD was rather pleased by today's ruling, and seems to believe Intel can't win. Citing previous Korean and Japanese antitrust cases, it said in a statement: "Intel has so far failed to convince any antitrust enforcement agency that its business practices are lawful and pro-consumer."