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Microsoft Seeks Stay of Ruling in Europe

June 26, 2004|From Bloomberg News

Microsoft Corp. sought immediate suspension of a European antitrust decision forcing it to share programming data with rivals and to offer a stripped-down version of Windows, people familiar with the matter said Friday.

Microsoft told the Luxembourg-based European Court of First Instance, Europe's highest appeals court, that it would suffer irreparable damage by bowing to European regulatory demands, said the people, who asked that they not be identified.

"Microsoft is very likely to get a stay because the suspension of two or three months won't mean a lot to competitors and means a lot to Microsoft," said Kurt Haegeman, a lawyer at Baker & McKenzie in Brussels.

Competition Commissioner Mario Monti ruled in March that Microsoft illegally used the Windows operating system to quash competition from rival makers of server software and media players such as RealNetworks Inc. He imposed a record $602 million fine, ordered Microsoft to license data on the inner workings of Windows and to strip its music and video player from the operating system. Microsoft appealed the decision June 8.

Microsoft requested the injunction before Monti's deadline of Monday to provide a version of Windows without a media player. Microsoft would have an additional 30 days to start licensing its protocols.

Microsoft spokesman Tom Brookes declined to comment, as did a spokesman for the court.

Should court president Bo Vesterdorf grant the temporary stay, he would decide in two to three months whether to extend it until the court rules on the merits of the antitrust case, a process that may take two years or more.

Competitors have argued that Microsoft unfairly withholds software protocols used by Windows, which powers 95% of personal computers.

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