Microsoft has turned to a surprising ally in its antitrust battle with the European Union (EU): The United States legal system. The software giant has asked federal courts in California, Massachusetts, and New York to order four of its rivals to provide it with documents from Microsoft's EU antitrust case. Microsoft had previously asked the EU to hand over the documentation, but the EU declined.
"Our repeated requests to the European Commission (EC) for full and fair file access have not been successful, so we are now turning to the US courts for assistance in obtaining relevant communications between our US competitors and the Commission," Microsoft associate counsel Horacio Gutierrez said, noting that a US district court can order "a person ... to give his testimony or statement or to produce a document ... for use in a proceeding."
The four companies--IBM, Novell, Oracle, and Sun Microsystems--have all provided the EU with evidence that they say proves Microsoft has broken EU antitrust law. However, after the EU refused to hand over all of this documentation, Microsoft charged that the EU was "colluding" with its rivals. That comment earned the company a slap on the wrist by EU antitrust regulators, who warned the company that its behavior could result in hefty fines.
Because Microsoft is required to begin hearings in the EU antitrust case on March 30, it has asked the US courts to act immediately. Legal experts say Microsoft's request is unusual and unlikely to bear fruit. "It shows Microsoft's desperation, frankly, in dealing with the EU," a legal expert told the Associated Press.