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April 30, 2006

Microsoft at the European Court of First Instance Days Four And Five

Much of the press coverage of the end of the hearing comes from the AP report by Matt Moore and Aoife White.  Those reporters note the final arguments between Microsoft and the European Commission.  Microsoft essentially states it would be permanently hobbled if the Commission prevails and that it shouldn't give up valuable intellectual property to competitors for free, or ideally, at all.  The Commission lawyers state that this an abuse of dominant position case and that Microsoft should not be in the commanding position to dictate the market.  Lurking in the background is the effectiveness of the EU Competition Committee in that if they can't win this one, they may not have much power to regulate.  Of course, once the parties got past the Media Player tying issue, the broader regulatory issues were entirely the focus without much variation from either side.

Looking, again, at the coverage, one would think there was less of a need for a trial when both sides could have supported their cases with press releases. Europe, and even its courts, are a bureaucratic paradise.  But, there is more news out there than a single AP news article.  The Register has a fine account of the last day's arguments.  Judge John D Cooke, the Irish Judge who is charged with writing the final opinion, as Commission Lawyers about the single fine when there were two findings of abuse, and how would the Court handle that if it splits its decision?  The Commission Lawyer wasn't quite prepared for that one suggesting a look a precedent and that perhaps the fine could be split up.  There were other little pokes such as whether the Commission was using the fines to pay for the Trustee in the case. 

Another detailed account of the proceedings comes from TG Daily, which notes questions from Judge Cooke to the Commission when they produced Andrew Tridgell from Samba.  Microsoft refused to give Samba a license because Samba works with open source code and Microsoft didn't want its code being disseminated to the public under such a license.  Tridgell held up a small storage server and said that without Microsoft's protocols Samba would be 10 years behind in turning it into a workgroup server.  The article makes the point should Microsoft speed up the research and development of a competitor who would piggy-back on Microsoft's large investment in their own product?  The same argument may have occurred to the Judge as well.

With both sides being grilled, and each side being less than convincing as to their positions, no one, not Microsoft's general counsel Brad Smith, or the Commission wanted to predict the outcome.

More original news and analysis comes from the BBC, the Seattle Post Intelligencer (a different AP article by White and Moore), The Register (Day Four), EUpolitix.com, the Irish Examiner, and for the fun of it, the Herald News Daily, the voice of the Dakotas.

April 30, 2006 | Permalink

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