CyberTech Rambler

December 22, 2005

Developments on Microsoft EU antitrust case

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 3:54 pm
Wow! Why the end-of-year rush of bad news for Microsoft EU Antitrust case? Is it because the European Bureaucrates need to meet an end-of-year deadline to allow them to claim “progress”? Or did they think that Microsoft needs the Christmas break to digests the information? Or someone is trying tos spike Microsoft’s Christmas? Most likely it is that the “end-of-year” slow down means news organzation were short of news to fill pages so smaller news items bubble up to the front pages.

In chronological order:

First and this is a rather surprising: The European Court of First Instance rejected the the application of four organizations to intervene on Microsoft’s behalf. These failed to demonstrate that either “their members’ interests can be affected by the principle decisions in the case”, or that “they represent a non-trivial propotion of a sector and the decision of the court have an appreciable impact on the sector concerned”. One organization (The International Association of Microsoft Certified Partners, Inc. or ‘IAMCP’ )was rejected because in the court’s opinion, they are simply a conduct of communications between Microsofts and developers and failed the first criteria, the others, the court says that they are mere think tanks, i.e. no direct interest. I think Microsoft is surprised as well. It is difficult to believe that Microsoft did not have a hand in their application. I hope they can now have Microsoft foot the legal fees they are supposed to pay to the other parties involved. Free Software Foundation Europe, on the other hand, should had asked for legal fees. Because they did not ask, they missed out.

Second development is one that have longer impact on Microsoft and others, including me: EU green paper on antitrust damage says, according to Bloomberg News, that trade secret deserves less protection from other Intellectual Properties such as Patents. (Note I tried to read the green paper but it is so full of legalese that I cannot understand it.) If so, Bloomberg News rightly conclude that this weaken Microsoft claims that releasing interoperability information to open-source as required by the EU, violates trade-secret rights. In my view, the most important aspect is not that this weaken Microsoft case, but rather the acknowledgement by the EU that intellectual property rights (IPR) is subservent to monopolistic abuse which it should be. Furthermore, this is consistent with my first principle of Intellectual Property: “Promoting Innovations”. Putting trade-secret, or other IPR above Monopolistic Abuse will certainly reduce innovation. I hope we are seeing a crack in the armour for those trumpetting IPR rights for content owner.

Third development is that EU says that Microsoft did not comply with its requirement to release the information it was ordered to. Hence, it is threathening to fine Microsoft upto two million euros per day if it fails to do so by 15 January (backdated to 15 Dec if the fine materialized). Microsoft is sitting on a pile of cash that it does not know what to do, hence the fine will not hurt the company as much. Moreover, two million euros is only an upper limit, the actual fine is likely to be substantially lower. If you ask me, I think the chances of Microsoft being fined is not very high, but it is likely to result in some Microsoft employees losing their Christmas Break. Well, at least those employees are very well paid.

Oh ya, did I mentioned AOL is cuddling up to Google rather than Microsoft?


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