The European Commission has launched a probe into how Intel licenses its bus technology. Although investigations into possible anti-competitive behaviour is fairly standard for very large companies such as Intel, this could still be a big deal for the firm.

In a PC, the bus interconnects the microprocessor with the motherboard and components attached to it, such as hard disk drives and graphics adapters.

Intel's bus architecture is part of the company's intellectual property and is licensed to PC builders. It has been alleged that PC manufacturers which used processors from Intel's rivals were denied access to Intel design data.

"We have received a request from the European competition authorities for information on our policies in licensing our bus architecture for Intel processors," said Intel spokeswoman Gillian Murphy.

Citing the 'confidential' nature of the inquiries, Murphy declined to specify what questions the EC is seeking answers to, when the request was made, or when Intel will respond.

"We believe our practices are both fair and lawful," Murphy said, adding that Intel will co-operate with the regulatory agencies.

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal last week, the probe also examines possible exclusionary effects of Intel's marketing tactics, specifically the subsidies the chip manufacturer gives PC vendors for including the 'Intel Inside' logo or its accompanying tune in advertising.

This subsidy is the reason why the Intel Inside phrase is featured in PC adverts – not because firms have to do it, but because they get help with advertising costs.

The European Commission is working on a statement on the probe, a spokeswoman said. The statement is expected later today.