EU, US DOJ Clash Over Microsoft Ruling

One day after the European Union (EU) denied Microsoft's request for an appeal of the landmark antitrust case against the company, regulators from the US Department of Justice (DOJ)-which had previously clashed with Microsoft over antitrust matters that were later settled--said the EU action would curb innovation and competition in the industry. The reaction from the other side of the pond was swift: EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said the DOJ's criticism was "totally unacceptable" and said the US should show the EU the same respect it shows to its compatriots overseas.

"US courts recognize the potential benefits to consumers when a company, including a dominant company, makes unilateral business decisions, for example, to add features to its popular products or license its intellectual property to rivals, or to refuse to do so," said the DOJ's Thomas O. Barnett, setting off the verbal fireworks. "In the United States, the antitrust laws are enforced to protect consumers by protecting competition, not competitors."

"We are...concerned that the \[EU requirements\] may have the unfortunate consequence of harming consumers by chilling innovation and discouraging competition," he added, noting that, under US law, "all companies, including dominant firms, are encouraged to compete vigorously." Unfortunately for Mr. Barnett, Microsoft does business outside the US as well. And his comments didn't sit well with Ms. Kroes.

"I think it's totally unacceptable \[that the DOJ\] should criticize an independent court's decision," she said. "The Commission doesn't pass judgment on rulings in US courts. We expect the same respect." She added that if Microsoft was unhappy with the ruling, it was free to make its final appeal in the case, this time to the European Court of Justice.

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