EC Takes a Tough Line With Antitrust Judgement--Will Microsoft Ruling Have Knock-On Effect?

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Now that the dust has settled on the legal battle between the European Commission and Microsoft, the question remains what, if any, impact the judgement of the Court of First Instance (CFI) may have on high-tech companies in the years to come.

The stakes in the Microsoft appeal were very high. The case represented the most high-profile and resource- intensive enforcement action attempted by the EC. The commission had been subject to criticism from US sources alleging protectionist bias and a failure to adequately promote intellectual property and innovation.

Most recently, French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, questioned the value of EU competition law. If the

EC had stumbled badly, it would have risked retreat into a ghetto, its main activity processing uncontroversial cartel cases and rubberstamping mergers.

The Microsoft Ruling

Against this background, the CFI judgement represents a strong endorsement of the commission’s aggressive enforcement position on two points in particular. First, forcing dominant companies to provide interoperability information to competitors, together with the related question of compulsory licensing of intellectual property rights. Second, bundling to achieve market power on the market for the bundled product.

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