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EU considers its own case against Microsoft

Van Miert seems to be considering opening a second front

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Rumblings from Europe indicate that the Commission is growing restive over the Microsoft case, feeling that it has not been sufficiently consulted over European companies that may have been harmed by the 'Beast of Redmond'. Commissioner Karel Van Miert has openly indicated that any competition law complaint about Microsoft's business practices in Europe would be investigated. This may already be happening -- it has been reported that Microsoft Europe has issued an instruction to European OEMs and distributors that every PC shipped must contain a version of Windows, or the Windows licence for any PC would be withdrawn. If true, this would contravene the 1994 European settlement terms, which were essentially identical to the US consent decree and which prohibit per processor licensing of Windows. Clearly Microsoft's concern is that distributors may start shipping PCs with Linux or even no operating system at all. It is likely that Microsoft would find itself in a tough position in Europe if it tried to reintroduce per processor licensing, since in many ways the EU has tougher powers and remedies available than the US. For example, rather than trust the defendant to produce documents in response to CID (civil investigative demand), the EU can carry out dawn raids in any EU member state to seek documents before there is an opportunity to destroy them. So far as remedies are concerned, a company can be fined ten per cent of its worldwide revenue. Van Miert met DoJ head of antitrust Joel Klein and FTC chairman Robert Pitovsky for breakfast in Washington last week and it is believed that their discussion dwelt on an additional action in Europe, which may depend on the outcome in the present case. In Philadelphia, Van Miert said that there was no need to cover the same ground as the DoJ. He also pointed to two post-1994 cases that DGIV had handled. The first was a licensing dispute between the Santa Cruz Operation (in which, ironically, Microsoft is a shareholder), and the second, which is currently being wrapped up, concerns contracts between Microsoft and ISPs. ® Complete Register trial coverage Click for more stories Click for story index

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