August 16, 2004 7:47 AM PDT

Microsoft, Time Warner DRM buy on EU review shelf

European antitrust regulators have extended a deadline for deciding whether to conduct an in-depth review of Microsoft and Time Warner's plan to jointly acquire ContentGuard, a digital rights management company.

European Commission regulators will now make a decision by Aug. 25, according to a representative of the European Union arm. Previously, the deadline was Monday.

Microsoft, a longtime investor in Bethesda, Md.-based ContentGuard, increased its investment and announced in April that Time Warner would join it in acquiring virtually all of the company from Xerox.

Both Microsoft and Time Warner are looking to establish a stronger foothold in the burgeoning market for technology that prevents illegal copying of content such as songs and videos.

Under European antitrust regulations, the commission has one month to either clear a deal or determine that a thorough investigation is needed. The deadline can be extended by an additional two weeks if one of two events occurs: the companies offer remedies to address regulators' antitrust concerns, or one of the European states wants a more extended review.

It's unclear what precipitated the extension of the deadline in the case of ContentGuard, but one source noted that the second reason is less likely the case here, given that both companies are based in the United States.

Domestic regulatory agencies like the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice are not investigating the deal, according to sources.

ContentGuard, which holds a portfolio of digital rights management patents, has previously licensed its technology to industry titans such as Microsoft and Sony. Additionally, standards bodies like the Motion Picture Experts Group have adopted some of these patents.

The company developed technologies such as Extensible Rights Markup Language, or XrML.

ContentGuard's portfolio of digital rights management patents was created by Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center. Xerox remains a small investor in ContentGuard.

 

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