Time on Microsofts Side

By Caron Carlson  |  Posted 2004-03-19 Print this article Print

?"> As was the case in the United States, time may be on Microsofts side in the litigation in Europe. Once the EC issues a ruling, Microsoft would file a request for appeal with the European Court of First Instance, in Luxembourg, which could take several years to rule, Gellos said.

In the United States, the Clinton administration initiated antitrust litigation against Microsoft in 1998, and the Bush administration settled the case in 2001. Here, the court focused on browser technology and found that Microsoft used illegal means to sustain a monopoly in the desktop operating system market. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has appealed the federal settlement, and a decision is expected soon.

Monti, who has made a name for himself as a tough enforcer, faces the end of his term this spring. However, because the member states backed his approach unanimously, it is unlikely the commission would alter the approach under new leadership, industry observers said.

"Mr. Monti has gotten apparently the unanimous approval of the 15 member states," said Falk, whose clients include the Computer & Communications Industry Association, which is made up of Microsoft competitors. "Its a different situation than we had here with an agency [the Department of Justice] that is responsible to a single executive branch."

Although both Ballmer and Monti last week emphasized the common ground they have reached over matters of past competitive conduct, it is unlikely Microsoft would accept the commissions remedies and appeal only the forward-looking provisions, observers said.

"Chances are, if theyre going to go into the Court of First Instance for the next three years, theyre probably going to go for a home run," Falk said.

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