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Microsoft sets spinners on court verdict

Reaction to failed appeal

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Microsoft may have lost in court, but it quickly tried to win the war of media reaction via organisations like CompTIA, the Computing Technology Industry Association and ACT (the Association for Competitive Technology) which both intervened in court on its side.

A statement from CompTIA said the court decision to uphold the commission's view that Microsoft acted anti-competitively would damage free enterprise in Europe. The Court of First Instance upheld the original verdict and €497m fine.

CompTIA anti-trust counsel Lars Liebler said: "Today's decision by the Court of First Instance represents a significant blow to free enterprise in Europe. Rather than supporting Europe as the innovation capital of the world, the commission's policies unchecked may turn the EU into the litigation capital of the world. This decision encourages competitors to bring legal action against each other rather than compete aggressively in the marketplace."

On server protocols, Liebler said: "The court's decision to uphold the commission's order requiring Microsoft to disclose its valuable intellectual property continues the unfortunate trend within the EU to undermine intellectual property rights.

"Despite evidence offered in court that Microsoft's server communications protocols are innovative and resulted in substantially improved performance of Microsoft's server software, the commission required Microsoft to share these inventions with its competitors."

The court ruled that Microsoft failed to prove it would suffer significant negative effects by opening up its server protocols.

ACT president Jonathan Zuck said in a first reaction to the judgment: "The commission just got a treat from the court, but SMEs and consumers will actually foot the bill. Microsoft did not win today, but it is European software developers and consumers that really lost. While there still may be a silver lining, it will take several hours and days to get a true assessment of the implications for SMEs. The court does seem to acknowledge the need for Microsoft to protect its intellectual property."

On the other side, a statement from ECIS, European Committee for Interoperable Systems, welcomed the verdict.

Thomas Vinje, ECIS spokesman and counsel, said: "This is a great day for European businesses and consumers. At long last this decision opens the prospect for dynamic competition in the software industry. No more user lock-in, no more monopoly pricing.

"The European Commission, Commissioner Kroes, former Commissioner Monti and their officials are to be praised for their vision and persistence in the face of 10 years of foot-dragging by Microsoft.

"The time has now come for Microsoft to obey the law. No more blaming the commission for the lack of clarity, no more excuses about complexity. The provision of interoperability information is common software industry practice. Microsoft knows full well what is required and how to provide and now just needs to do it."

In related news, last week saw another defeat for Microsoft. In the US a group of six states, known as the California Group, asked that the anti-trust ruling against Microsoft be extended for another five years because the company was not complying with the original verdict which expires in November.

The California Group includes the states of California, Connecticut, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota and Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia. ®

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