Monday, January 14, 2008

EC Announces Two New Antitrust Investigations into Microsoft

This posting was written by Jeffrey May, Editor of CCH Trade Regulation Reporter.

The European Commission (EC) has opened two formal antitrust investigations into Microsoft Corporation for the computer software maker's alleged abuse of its dominant market position. The investigations follow complaints from the European Committee for Interoperable Systems (ECIS) and Opera Software ASA, according to a January 14 announcement.

In response to the complaint filed by ECIS, a Brussels-based international non-profit association whose members include information and communications technology hardware and software providers, the EC will probe Microsoft's alleged refusal to disclose interoperability information for a broad range of products.

The EC noted that the September 2007 decision of the European Court of First Instance, which essentially upheld the EC's 2004 decision against Microsoft for abusing its dominant market position, confirmed the principle that dominant companies must respect interoperability disclosure obligations.

Tying of Internet Browser to Operating System

The EC is also investigating whether Microsoft engaged in the illegal tying of its Internet Explorer product to its dominant Windows operating system. The investigation follows a December 2007 complaint from Opera, a software company headquartered in Oslo, Norway.

Based on the allegations of Opera, which develops Internet browser technology for various platforms, the EC is looking into whether Microsoft has introduced proprietary technologies in its browser that would reduce compatibility with open Internet standards and hinder competition. In addition, allegations of tying of other separate software products by Microsoft, including desktop search and Windows Live, were brought to the EC's attention.

The EC intends to consider allegations that a range of products have been unlawfully tied to sales of Microsoft's dominant operating system.

Text of the EC press release appears here on the European Union web site.

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