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April 20, 2006

Get your scorecard for the Microsoft EU grudge match!

Posted by David Hunter at 12:08 PM ET.

Next Monday marks the start of the week-long hearing before the EU Court of First Instance where Microsoft will try to overthrow the 2004 antitrust ruling against them. We’ve already had a preview of the arguments on each side, but Reuters has prepared a scorecard of the issues and the players as well as this summary by David Lawsky and Sabina Zawadzki. In case all the Microsoft vs EU match ups are confusing, here’s the net:

The court will not deal with the side issue of a Commission threat to fine Microsoft up to 2 million euros a day for failing to comply with the interoperability order.

The EU regulator is expected to decide on that in May, and that could give rise to a separate appeal later.

In the main case, the Court of First Instance will determine whether to overturn or modify the Commission’s ruling and fine. It will take months and possibly a year to reach a decision.

Its ruling on facts is final, but legal issues may be the subject of an appeal to the European Court of Justice, the highest EU court.

My guess (and it is merely that) is that Microsoft is unlikely to obtain any relief at the end of the road. If you’d like to explore a darker vision of the whole European Union regulatory process, check out Back in the E.U.S.S.R. by the Motley Fool’s Rich Smith:

Fifteen years after the demise of the Soviet Union, Europe still yearns for the good old days.

All across the Continent, west of the old Berlin Wall, economies are stagnant, GDP growth is anemic, and the powers that be persecute successful companies with malice aforethought. One wonders whether there’s a connection there.

But it’s more than just a little affection for socialism:

Now, these companies all have a couple things in common — both with each other and with the major card providers as well. First, they’ve all been targeted for criticism by European authorities in recent years — Coke for out-competing other pop vendors for shelf space, Intel for controlling too much market share, eBay for failing to do the European Community’s tax collecting for it, Google for getting too inventive with its advertising, and Microsoft seemingly for every single thing it does.

And the second thing they have in common: They’re all American companies.

Correlation doesn’t prove causation, but the artifact does seem rather glaring. Read the full argument by following the link, but at the heart, it’s no different that dealing with China or any other government jurisdiction – Microsoft has to reach a modus vivendi or get out. All we are seeing is the haggling.

Filed under Antitrust, General Business, Governmental Relations, Legal, Microsoft

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