Antitrust Law

Microsoft Bends Knee to EU Regulation

  • Print

Bowing down to the authority of the European Union to regulate antitrust issues, Microsoft Corp. has agreed to end a nine-year court battle and share some of its intellectual property with competitors. The move may signal a new era of increased EU enforcement of antitrust rules against dominant companies, now that the computer Goliath has acceded to European regulation.

Rather than further appeal a 2004 court ruling that requires Microsoft to unbundle its Media Player software from its Windows operating system, the company has settled with the EU, reports the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.). It will now share with competitors, via affordable licenses, the information they need to provide software compatible with the version of Windows that can be found on business servers.

Microsoft has also agreed not to contest a fine of approximately $700 million which was previously assessed (see this post for details). Additional fines of as much as $1 billion or more could still “theoretically” be levied by the EU, too, the WSJ reports.

Microsoft, which is headquartered in Redmond, Wash., declined to comment, the newspaper notes, except for a brief statement which says the company will “continue to work closely with the commission and the industry to ensure a flourishing and competitive environment for information technology.”

Now that Microsoft is toeing the line, “EU regulators also now have other big U.S. tech companies in their sights, among them Intel Corp., which has been accused of selling computer microprocessors below cost and using rebates and other payments to induce customers not to buy chips from [a] smaller rival,” the newspaper reports. Also under scrutiny is Google Inc.’s planned acquisition of DoubleClick Inc., an Internet-advertising provider.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.