Monday, September 17, 2007

Europe - Competition law

EU court crushes Microsoft's antitrust appeal

Reuters - A European Union court upheld a landmark 2004 European Commission antitrust decision against Microsoft on Monday in a crucial victory for the European competition regulator over the U.S. software giant.

The court dismissed Microsoft's appeal on all substantive points, throwing a small bone to the U.S. company by reversing the Commission on the creation and funding of a monitoring trustee to ensure implementation of one of the remedies.

"The Court of First Instance essentially upholds the Commission's decision finding that Microsoft abused its dominant position," a court statement said.

The EU executive, which has wide-ranging antitrust and merger control powers, found in 2004 that Microsoft had used its 95 percent share of the market in personal computer operating systems to elbow aside and damage smaller rivals.

It ordered the company to sell a version of its ubiquitous Windows platform without its Windows Media Player application used to play video and music, and to share with rivals key information allowing their office servers to work smoothly with Windows.

The ruling of the CFI on facts is final, but matters of law may be appealed to the European Union's highest court, the European Court of Justice.

In a revealing detail, the court ordered Microsoft to pay most of the costs including some of its business rivals' which had supported the Commission's case.

By contrast, Microsoft's allies were forced to bear their own costs.

The ruling was made by the 13-judge Grand Chamber of the Court of First Instance in Luxembourg, the first time such a matter has been broadcast on live television.

The court upheld a record 497 million euro ($689.9 million) fine imposed on Microsoft as part of the original decision.

The Commission had later said Microsoft failed to comply with its order on interoperability and fined the company an additional 280.5 million euros. It is considering a further fine for non-compliance.

From Reuters
see also Court of First Instance press release and judgement

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