September 17, 2007 12:21 PM PDT
EU ruling deals setback to Microsoft
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A number of Microsoft competitors have previously weighed in on the interoperability issue in complaints to the Commission. These include the European Committee for Interoperable Systems (ECIS), a nonprofit trade association that includes as members Adobe, IBM, Oracle, RealNetworks, Red Hat and Sun Microsystems.
"This landmark judgment sets a clear standard for Microsoft's future conduct and empowers the European Commission to impose it in the European market when necessary," said Thomas Vinje, a spokesman and legal counsel for ECIS.
Linux distributor Red Hat also voiced its support for the court's decision.
"In our business, interoperability information is critically important and cannot simply be withheld to exclude all competition?we were pleased with the overall decision and look forward to examining the decision in greater detail," Matthew Szulik, Red Hat chief executive, said in a statement.
Similar views were expressed by the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA).
"After one of the most thorough investigations in the history of competition law, spanning over seven years, the Commission has taken a steady and decisive course," Ken Wasch, SIIA president, said in a statement. "We applaud the leadership and persistence of the European Commission."
But another trade group, the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), which includes Microsoft as a member, expressed disappointment in the ruling, labeling it a blow to "free enterprise in Europe."
In addition to the interoperability issue, the court sided with the Commission on the bundling of separate software products, citing three areas that affected its decision. One was the company in question must have a dominant position in the market for the tying product, such as the Windows operating system; two, the tying product and tied product--in this case Windows and Windows Media Player--must be two separate products; and three, consumers don't have a choice to obtain the tying product without the tied product.
"The court considers that the factors on which the Commission based its conclusion that there was abusive tying are correct and consistent with community law."
RealNetworks, which makes the RealPlayer media player, had raised such an issue in the past, eventually reaching a $460 million settlement to address antitrust claims with Microsoft in 2005. Microsoft also agreed to pay RealNetworks $310 million to support RealNetworks' movie and game business.
In recent years, the software giant has been paying multimillion-dollar settlements to its rivals to address previous antitrust litigation. Microsoft also paid longtime archrival Sun Microsystems $700 million to settle antitrust disputes with the company over interoperability issues and another $900 million over patent issues.
Legal experts previously weighed in on what a favorable court ruling would do for the Commission. Some legal experts said that with a favorable court ruling in the Microsoft case, the Commission would likely remain on its current aggressive track in pursuing antitrust cases, whereas an unfavorable one would have likely "taken the wind out of its sails."
Reuters contributed to this report.
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