Intel Corporation v. Advanced Micro Devices, Inc.

PETITIONER: Intel Corporation
RESPONDENT: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc.
LOCATION: Meramec River

DOCKET NO.: 02-572
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 542 US 241 (2004)
GRANTED: Nov 10, 2003
ARGUED: Apr 20, 2004
DECIDED: Jun 21, 2004

Carter G. Phillips - argued the cause for Petitioner
Jeffrey P. Minear - argued the cause for Respondent, on behalf of the United States, as amicus curiae
Patrick Lynch - argued the cause for Respondent
Seth P. Waxman - argued the cause for Petitioner

Facts of the case

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) filed a complaint against Intel with the European Commission, alleging that Intel was using its size to unfairly dominate the computer microprocessor market. Complaints filed with the European Commission are first reviewed by the commission's directorate general, which does fact-finding to decide whether or not to pursue the complaint. AMD asked the directorate to review documents containing some of Intel's trade secrets from a separate American court case involving Intel. The directorate declined.

Because European law did not provide a way for AMD to gain access to the documents, AMD filed suit against Intel in United States federal district court seeking access to the documents so that it could use them to support its complaint. The suit was filed under Title 28, Section 1782 of U.S. Code, which allows (but does not require) federal district courts to give "interested persons" access to material for proceedings before "foreign or international tribunal(s)." AMD argued that, though the directorate was only a fact-finding body, the case could eventually be appealed to a trial court and was therefore covered under section 1782. Further, it argued that the directorate's unwillingness to demand the documents was irrelevant. Intel, on the other hand, argued that the directorate was not a "foreign or international tribunal" and that the federal district court therefore did not have the authority to compel Intel to release the documents. It also argued that the directorate's unwillingness to compel production of the documents should preclude U.S. action.

The district court sided with Intel, ruling that the directorate's investigation was not a foreign tribunal and that the court therefore could not give AMD access to the documents. A Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel unanimously reversed the decision. After the case was accepted for review by the U.S. Supreme Court, the European Commission filed a brief in the case supporting Intel's position that the directorate was not a foreign tribunal.


Does Section 1782 of Title 28 of U.S. Code authorize a federal district court to compel the release of material for use in a "foreign tribunal" when the foreign tribunal itself is unwilling to demand production of the material? Does Section 1782 authorize a federal district court to compel the release of material for a fact-finding investigation by the directorate general of the European Commission on the theory that the information may eventually lead to an investigation by a foreign tribunal?

Media for Intel Corporation v. Advanced Micro Devices, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 20, 2004 in Intel Corporation v. Advanced Micro Devices, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 21, 2004 in Intel Corporation v. Advanced Micro Devices, Inc.

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court in No. 02-572, Intel Corporation versus Advanced Micro Devices will be announced by Justice Ginsburg.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

This case concerns the authority Federal District Courts have to order production of evidence for use in foreign and international tribunals.

In 1964 seeking to improve judicial assistance between the United States and foreign countries, Congress completely revised the governing statutes and rules.

As part of the revision, Congress overhauled 28 U.S.C. Section 1782 which now provides that a Federal District Court may order persons to give testimony or produce documents for use in a proceeding in a foreign or international tribunal.

The parties before us divide on the question whether the Congress placed certain categorical limits on that discovery.

Respondent, Advanced Micro Devices or AMD filed an antitrust complaint against petitioner, Intel with the European Commission.

Acting to its Directorate-General for competition, the Commission conducts investigations into alleged violations of European competition rules and may issue binding decisions enforceable through fines.

Final decisions made by the Commission are reviewable in European Union Courts.

AMD asked the Directorate-General to seek Court's investigation documents Intel had produced in private litigation in an Alabama Federal District Court.

When the Directorate-General declined to do so, AMD itself applied to a California Federal District Court for an order directing Intel to produce those documents.

Intel moved to dismiss AMD’s application urging that 1782 did not authorize the discovery AMD sought.

The District Court granted Intel’s motion, but the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed and instructed the District Court to rule on the merits of AMD’s application.

Affirming the judgment of the Ninth Circuit, we now hold that Congress authorized but did not require the District Court to provide discovery aid to a complainant such as AMD during a European Commission investigation that will end in a dispositive ruling.

Intel raises four questions about the scope of discovery aid Congress authorized.

First, does a complainant before the European Commission qualify for such assistance?

Second, is the Commission a tribunal for purposes of the statute?

We answer yes to these first two questions.

Third, must a matter in a foreign tribunal be pending or imminent before better courts may give aid?

And fourth, did Congress bar District Courts from ordering discovery when the applicant would not be able to obtain the documents or they located in a foreign country?

We answer no to those questions.

Our answers are based on the language of 1782 confirmed by the statute’s context.

1782 authorizes assistance to any interested person.

A complainant such as AMD, who has significant participation rights in European Commission proceedings is surely an interested person and therefore, qualified as a discovery requester under 1782.

And the Commission to the extent that it acts as a first instance decision maker, qualifies as a tribunal under the statute.

As the statute’s legislative history corroborates, Congress intended aid for foreign administrative as well as judicial proceedings that eventuate in decisions binding on the participants.

The proceeding for which discovery is sought moreover, need not be pending or imminent when discovery aid is sought.

Congress made judicial assistance available when a matter in a foreign tribunal is at an investigative pre-adjudication stage, so long as a dispositive proceeding is within reasonable contemplation.

Intel argues that discovery aid is categorically barred when the applicant would not be able to obtain the documents where they are located in the foreign jurisdiction or where they sought in a domestic litigation analogous to the foreign proceeding.

We count it significant that Congress expressly shielded privilege materials but did not limit the District Court’s production authority to materials discoverable in the foreign proceedings, nor did Congress direct the United States Courts to engage in comparative analysis to determine whether analogous domestic proceedings exist.

Comparisons of that order can be frought with danger given the considerable differences in U.S. procedural modes and those holding weigh abroad.