Flush with the apparent success of its efforts against Microsoft, the European Union (EU) antitrust officials in the European Commission (EC) are close to filing similar antitrust charges against chipmaker Intel. The EC has been investigating Intel's business practices for five years and believes it now has enough evidence to formally charge the company.

News of Intel's pending legal woes comes from sources close to the investigation. The sources say that the EC has written a draft version of its charges against Intel and will soon defend its accusations in an internal "devil's advocate" debate that will involve a panel of legal experts. Assuming the charges pass this internal process, the charges will be given to European Commissioner for Competition Neelie Kroes, who will make the final decision about whether to charge Intel by the end of the year.

If Intel were charged, the EC would issue a statement of objections that lists the ways in which the company has broken EU antitrust laws. Intel would then have two months to issue a written response to the charges and could request a private hearing with EC officials. If Intel were found guilty after this process, Kroes would then issue a ruling, which could include various requirements, such as behavioral changes and a fine.

The Intel investigation came about after Intel competitor AMD complained that Intel was abusing its market power. This week, AMD expressed confidence that the EU would move ahead with charges against its competitor, but Intel maintains that its business practices are both "fair and lawful." However, the EU isn't alone in probing the chipmaker: South Korea is also investigating Intel's possible antitrust violations.