Antitrust & Competition Policy Blog

Editor: D. Daniel Sokol
University of Florida
Levin College of Law

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Wednesday, May 4, 2005

Does Software Patenting Make EU's Case Against Microsoft Irrelevant?

In an open letter to Charlie McCreevy, European Internal Market Commissioner, George Greve, the president of Free Software Foundation Europe writes:

"With the current Common Position on the directive
on "computer implemented inventions" -- adopted 7 March 2005 by the
European Council -- software patents will cover the interfaces and
file formats.

"The central issue of the antitrust case is the protocols that are
"used on the wire" -- without these, only Microsoft can write software
that is interoperable with it's desktop monopoly -- thus extending
their dominance into the workgroup server market. As FSFE has pointed
out in support of the Commission, this information is not secret
because it is valuable, it is valuable because it is secret.

"An analogy can be drawn by comparing computer networks to telephone
networks. What Microsoft has done is declare the specific frequencies
used to dial the numbers one and zero "multi-million dollar
investments". The European Commission rightly did not allow Microsoft
to confuse convention with invention.

"The current proposed directive grants patents on interfaces and file
formats, the digital equivalent of spoken languages, this proposal
supports monopolising conventions as if they were inventions. Allowing
Microsoft to extend its monopoly beyond the reach of any antitrust
commission in the world, it comes as little surprise that Microsoft is
strongly supportive of the current draft of the directive."

Link here for a full text of the letter.

May 4, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

What Has The Verizon-MCI Merger Wrought?

From today's Wall Street Journal (by staff reporters Shawn Young and Peter Grant):

"With Verizon Communications Corp. having sewn up the latest deal in a recent $100 billion spate of phone-company mergers, the lines are drawn for a showdown over who will offer households the most attractive packages of telecommunications services.

"Major cable companies have been racing to add phone service to the TV-and-Internet packages they already offer. Cablevision Systems Corp., the country's sixth-largest cable operator, has chalked up impressive results by offering a bundle of phone, TV and Internet services for $90 a month for the first year. Comcast Corp., the country's largest cable operator, is planning to offer a $69-a-month package of phone and high-speed Internet services.

"The phone companies are hitting back with offers of combined cellphone, Internet and landline phone service -- and the largest ones soon plan to add TV over new fiber-optic lines they are building. Verizon offers a package that charges $49.95 a month for unlimited local and long-distance calling and offers high-speed Internet service with it for $29.95 a month. The company also has a deal with satellite-TV provider DirecTV Group Inc.

"Not all consumers will benefit equally -- and some maybe not at all. Some consumer advocates say bundles will benefit consumers who already spend at least $50 to $60 a month on phone service and who have cellphones and high-speed Internet connections.

"Also, large parts of the country, especially rural areas, won't have the option of getting phone service from their cable provider for several years. "

May 4, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

An Open And Shut Case? ; or The Dead Hand of the Law

Consumer advocates files a suit against Service Corporation International, Alderwoods Group, Inc., and Stewart Enterprises, Inc., three of the largest funeral chains (controlling more than 2100 funeral homes, according to today's Wall Street Journal).  The suit alleges price fixing and monopolization.  The suit was filed in San Francisco as a class action.  Link to Reuters report.

May 4, 2005 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)