The next step in
efforts to delay or reverse anticompetition sanctions imposed by the European Union’s (E.U.’s) executive branch comes on Tuesday in Luxembourg when officials from the software maker and the European Commission are set to attend an “informal meeting” with the president of the European Court of First Instance (CFI), Bo Vesterdorf.
The meeting, to which other “interested parties” have been invited, was called so that the practicalities and time table of Microsoft’s application for a suspension can be discussed, according to a CFI spokesman.
The president of the E.U.’s second highest court is considering a request by the Redmond, Washington, company that it issue an interlocutory order to suspend the Commission’s competition remedies against Microsoft until the CFI as a whole decides whether to affirm or annul the decision, a process that is expected to take between three and five years.
On March 24, the E.U.’s executive branch ruled Microsoft
violated competition law
by using its dominance in the PC operating system market to gain an advantage in the markets for media players and workgroup server operating systems. The Commission imposed a fine of €497 million (US$602 million, as of Monday). Microsoft paid the fine earlier this month, which is currently being held in an escrow account pending the results of Microsoft’s appeal.
More pressing for Microsoft and the European software market in general, are the remedies imposed by the Commission. Microsoft was ordered to supply a version of the Windows operating system without its media player and to also reveal enough Windows code to allow rivals to build competing server software that can work properly with Windows.
The remedy deadlines were June 28 and July 27 respectively, but on June 27 the Commission
temporarily suspended those deadlines
until the Microsoft application for interim measures was ruled on by Vesterdorf. It is within Vesterdorf’s purview to suspend just one of the remedies, or both, or to fully deny the request.
In a conference call with reporters in early July, Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith said that the company needed greater clarification from the Commission in terms of knowing what files need to be removed from Windows in order to comply with the Commission’s order. But, according to sources familiar with the case, the Commission based its ruling on technical information supplied by Microsoft itself, giving the clarification request the appearance to some of being little more than a delaying tactic.