A Final Defeat for Microsoft in EU Antitrust Case?

The General Court of the European Union (EU) on Wednesday rejected Microsoft’s bid to dismiss billions of dollars of fines related to non-compliance in 2008 in the software giant’s long-running European antitrust case. However, in closing the case, the court did trim the total fine by a tiny amount.

"The General Court essentially upholds the [European] Commission's decision imposing a periodic penalty payment on Microsoft for failing to allow its competitors access to interoperability information on reasonable terms," the court noted in its ruling, adding that the case against Microsoft “brought significant benefits to users … A range of innovative products that would otherwise not have seen the light of day were introduced on the market.”

Microsoft’s non-compliance fine was reduced by about 4 percent, to roughly $1.1 billion.

"Although the General Court slightly reduced the fine, we are disappointed with the Court's ruling," a Microsoft statement reads.

Microsoft, you might recall, played a recalcitrant and belligerent role during its European antitrust case, which started as an examination of the software giant’s licensing practices but quickly expanded into other areas, including software bundling, source code and specification publishing, and more. Microsoft was forced to change Windows numerous times for the EU, releasing a Media Player-less version called Windows N, and creating a so-called “ballot box” so that users there could choose between Internet Explorer (IE) and other browsers.

The fines referred to by today’s ruling involve Microsoft’s 2008 noncompliance with an EU order dating back to 2004. In its ruling of the day, the EU imposed a then-record $1.4 billion fine on Microsoft, about 2 percent of its revenues that year, stating that the firm had ignored its order for 488 days. The software giant immediately appealed that decision.

(Intel "beat" Microsoft’s record by receiving a $1.45 billion fine from the EU in 2009. Hearings in that case start next month.)

Today’s ruling isn’t necessarily the end of this case, as Microsoft could appeal one final time. But given the company’s lack of success with the antitrust watchdogs in Europe, it is perhaps no surprise that Microsoft has turned to these same regulators to complain about its own voracious competitors. This year, Microsoft formally requested that the EC investigate Google for antitrust violations, a repeat of the original Novell complaint against Microsoft that touched off its own EU antitrust case.

TAGS: Windows 8
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