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European court junks Microsoft antitrust appeal

Posted: 19 Sep 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:European court? Microsoft antitrust appeal? EC ruling?

Microsoft has suffered a major setback in Europe as the Luxembourg-based European Court of First Instance rejected almost all the substantive arguments in its appeal to annul the antitrust decision made in 2004 by the European Commission (EC).

The EC found in that case that Microsoft abused its dominant position in the PC software market by failing to make its products compatible with those of rivals, and by bundling software products together with its core OS software. It fined the company $613 million, and a further $38.9 million last July for failing to comply.

The Sept. 17 decision of the Court marks the culmination of a nine-year dispute between Microsoft and European regulators that could have a significant influence on EU competition law.

The Court of First Instance dismissed the appeal on all points except the EC ruling on the creation of a monitoring trustee to ensure implementation of one of the remedies. It ruled the imposition of a trustee to oversee the company and check it was complying with court demands was an obligation too far.

The EC has continued to publicly criticize and fine Microsoft, declaring that it has failed to properly comply with those terms, which include making software code for running server computers more available to competitors seeking to build compatible products.

The software giant is now likely to face even more intense scrutiny by the EC, for instance over the way new functions other than Windows and MediaPlayer have been bundled into its latest OS, the Vista.

It is also facing potentially huge fines for failing to comply with the EC's 2004 ruling.

Not surprisingly, Microsoft's rivals welcomed the top European Court ruling.

"This is a great day for European businesses and consumers. At long last, the decision opens the prospect for dynamic competition in the software industry. No more user lock-in, no more monopoly pricing," said Thomas Vinje, the lawyer representing Ecis, a group which includes IBM, Nokia, Oracle and Sun Microsystems.

- John Walko
EE Times Europe

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