November 25, 2004

EU Court Sets Talks in Case Against Microsoft

A top European court has summoned all the parties involved in the European Union's antitrust case against Microsoft to a meeting in Luxembourg on Thursday after two prominent opponents of Microsoft withdrew from the proceedings, a court official has said.

People close to the case said the president of the European Court of First Instance, Bo Vesterdorf, wanted to discuss issues created by the withdrawal from the legal process on Nov. 8 of Novell and the Computer and Communications Industry Association. None of the parties concerned would say whether Novell or the CCIA, when they pulled out of the proceedings, withdrew evidence they earlier submitted to the court. But one person close to Microsoft's opponents, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said both had withdrawn their submissions.

"It is very unusual for a party withdrawing from a case to withdraw the evidence it has already submitted to the court," this person said. The European Commission and Microsoft both declined to comment on the meeting. Novell and the CCIA were unavailable to comment. "It isn't unusual that the judge should call an informal meeting to discuss the withdrawal of two parties in the case," said one person familiar with Microsoft's position, who also spoke on condition of anonymity. Microsoft agreed to pay Novell $536 million and the CCIA an undisclosed amount in return for both of them withdrawing their support for the European Commission, which is defending its decision in March to fine Microsoft 497 million, or $651 million, and order it to change the way it sells software in Europe. Microsoft was told to sell a second version of its Windows operating system in Europe without the Microsoft Media Player program. The commission also ordered the company to reveal more secret code inside Windows so that rival makers of server operating systems can build programs that work as well with Windows as Microsoft's own server software. Vesterdorf must decide in the coming weeks whether to suspend the commission's orders pending the outcome of Microsoft's appeal, which could take several years.