Microsoft seeks allies in EU antitrust fight

Government, business, friend of a friend...

Microsoft is pulling out all the stops in a bid to get the US government and US businesses to support it in its anti-trust battle with the European Union.

According to a leaked memo, seen by the Financial Times newspaper, Microsoft has asked several businesses, including one big pharmaceuticals company, to lobby government officials on its behalf.

The memo suggests businesses contact two specific officials, one in the DoJ, the other a special advisor to the Whitehouse. It helpfully outlines four topics the business concerned might like to raise, such as asking for the US government to "intervene directly" in the anti-trust case.

The FT also reports that the company has itself had meetings with staff from the Department of Justice and the Whitehouse, asking for their backing against the EU.

Microsoft is currently appealing an EU ruling that it had violated Europe's anti-trust laws. The company was fined €497m, and ordered to share details of its server APIs.

Microsoft has challenged the latter part of this ruling on the grounds that it could allow other companies to distribute its technology. It has asked the US government to intervene and join it in court against the EU's competition commission, and is lobbying other US businesses to support its argument that this could "adversely impact" the value of other US companies' trade secrets.

"It is not unusual for companies to present their views to the department. Generally speaking, in every matter we make our decisions based on the facts and the law," a spokesperson for the US justice department told the paper.

It would be most unusual for the US government to involve itself directly in the court proceedings.

In a prepared statement, Microsoft said: "The European Commission and EU Member State Governments have intervened in a number of competition cases and appeals in the United States. It makes sense for the U.S. Government to offer its views in a similar way under the procedures established by European courts, where the issue has broad implications for the global economy." ®

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