The European Commission has launched an investigation into Intel’s business practices focusing in part on the company's marketing system and licensing of its processor bus technology, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The probe is attempting to examine possible exclusionary effects of the chip giant's marketing efforts including subsidies it provides to companies that take part in its Intel Inside branding campaign, the newspaper said. The investigation is also looking at Intel's licensing of its processor bus design, the report said - quoting lawyers close to the case. PC manufacturers who used processors from Intel's rivals were alleged to have been denied access to design data by Intel, said the report.

A spokeswoman for the European Commission, who declined to give her name, said she could not comment on the matter.

Intel could not immediately be reached for comment.

The investigation follows an antitrust probe of Intel launched by the US Fair Trade Commission that began in 1997 and ended in late September last year with no action having been taken.

Chip coercion The FTC accused the chip maker of harming competition when it refused to do business with three companies - Compaq, Intergraph and the former Digital Equipment Corp. (since acquired by Compaq) - unless they agreed to license patented technology on Intel's terms. The case was settled in 1999, but the investigation continued until late September last year.