Microsoft Fears Irreparable Harm, Changes Licensing Tune

Although Microsoft earlier had offered to license Windows interface information as part of a settlement with the EU, it now tells the court such a move would cause irreparable harm.

Microsoft Corp. offered to license server interface protocols as part of a proposed settlement with the European Commission, the software company said in court on Thursday—the same licensing regime that Microsoft now says would cause it irreparable harm.

In hearings on Thursday and Friday at Luxembourgs European Court of First Instance (CFI), Microsoft is appealing a March European Competition Commission decision that would force the company to license Windows interface information and provide a version of Windows without its bundled media player. Microsoft is seeking to delay the commissions remedies until its broader appeal has played out, which could take three to seven years.

/zimages/4/28571.gifRead more here about the European commissions ruling against Microsoft.

Microsoft admitted to CFI President Bo Vesterdorf, the judge presiding over the hearing, that it had offered to license interface information to competitors to ensure their server products could work with Windows desktops as well as Microsofts own servers. Following the breakdown of settlement talks, the commission included the licensing requirement as part of its decision in March.

For the court to delay the remedies, Microsoft must prove, among other things, that the remedies would cause harm that couldnt be repaired in the event that Microsoft is ultimately found blameless as a result of its wider appeal. The claim of irreparable harm is undermined by Microsofts earlier offer to license interface information, argued the commission on Thursday.

"Microsoft effectively acknowledged that it offered more in the settlement discussions than the decision orders it to provide," said Thomas Vinje, a lawyer representing the Computer and Communications Industry Association, in the hearing. The CCIA is an "intervener," or interested party, arguing on behalf of the commission.

Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith countered that the settlement offer had been made as part of a broader package including assurances over the circumstances of licensing, the criteria for use, which markets the licenses would be granted and other concessions, according to a Microsoft spokesman present at the hearing. Those qualifications werent part of the commissions decision, Smith said.

The software company is trying to prove that the interface information in question constitutes valuable intellectual property, and that the commissions decision infringes on its IP rights. The commission and its supporters argue that the information is only valuable in that its secrecy allows Microsoft to lock out competitors.

Next page: A stripped-down Windows.