EU Denies Microsoft Extension and Documents Requests

On Wednesday, an independent hearing officer for the European Commission (EC) denied Microsoft's request to extend the company's deadline for complying with the European Union (EU) antitrust ruling. As a result, Microsoft has until February 15 to satisfy EU demands.

"We have confirmed the deadline of February 15 on the basis that nearly eight weeks should be sufficient for Microsoft to reply to a comparatively short statement of objections," an EC spokesperson said. In November 2005, the EC found that Microsoft wasn't meeting the requirements of its 2004 antitrust ruling, so it gave Microsoft a deadline of December 15, 2005 for fulfilling those legal obligations. When that deadline passed without resolution, the EC began a legal process that could result in Microsoft being fined up to $2 million a day for noncompliance. That legal process will now conclude February 15, when Microsoft is expected to respond to the EC complaint.

When it asked for the extension, Microsoft criticized the EC for not providing the company with access to all of the correspondence between the Commission and Microsoft's competitors. The EC argued, however, that the correspondence included confidential information that those companies wished to keep private. "The Commission's position on this point is contrary to both the letter and spirit of the law," a Microsoft lawyer said, noting that the EC's protection of the correspondence compromised the software giant's ability to defend itself.

However, in Wednesday's announcement, the EC revealed that the independent hearing officer overruled Microsoft's objections. Additionally, the EC says that it did share with Microsoft the correspondence with companies that had waived their confidentiality rights. The correspondence is described by the EC as being "mostly of a fairly mundane nature."

In related news, lawyers at the US Department of Justice (DOJ) say that Microsoft has allayed most of their concerns about the company's adherence to its US antitrust settlement. Previously, the DOJ had raised concerns about one of the requirements of the US settlement, in which Microsoft was to have provided technical information about its server products. (This requirement is, coincidentally, almost identical to the requirement Microsoft is not meeting in its EU antitrust case.) Under the terms of Microsoft's plan for meeting the DOJ requirements, the company will now license server protocols and accompanying documentation for free.

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