EU Temporarily Lifts Microsoft Ruling

It suspended the landmark antitrust decision pending a judge's ruling on whether sanctions should be delayed until the company's appeals are exhausted.



BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) -- The European Union on Sunday temporarily suspended a landmark antitrust decision against Microsoft Corp, pending a judge's decision on whether sanctions should be delayed until the company's appeals are exhausted.

The decision came a day before an EU order was to take effect requiring Microsoft to make Windows software available to European PC makers without its digital media player.

In a statement, the EU head office said it agreed to lifting the order temporarily only "in the interest of a proper administration of justice."

However, it added that "the remedies are reasonable, balanced, and necessary to restore competition in the marketplace and that there is a strong public interest in favor of implementing them without waiting for the judgment on the substance of the case."

On Friday, Microsoft asked the EU's high court to issue a long-term order barring the antitrust decision from taking effect while the company's appeal is being considered. EU spokeswoman Amelia Torres said she expected a court ruling in two months on the request.

On March 24, the European Commission declared Microsoft guilty of abusing its "near monopoly" with Windows software. It levied a record fine of 497.2 million euros ($613 million) and demanded changes in how the company operates in Europe to improve competition globally.

Microsoft was given 90 days--until Monday--to separate the media player from Windows software and 120 days to issue "complete and accurate" information to rivals in the server market so their products can become fully "interoperable" with desktop computers running Windows.

On June 7, Microsoft filed a 100-page appeal asking the EU high court to annul the EU's antitrust decision and its penalties.

That move in itself did not stop the order, so Microsoft filed a petition last Friday with the EU high court seeking "interim" relief from the antitrust decision.

It wants no penalties imposed while it pursues a final appeal of the ruling. To get its way, it must convince the EU high court it will suffer "irreparable harm" if the measures are implemented now, even if they are reversed later on a final appeal that may take five years or more.

Microsoft said pushing through the antitrust order will hurt software development companies as well as Web site developers "who have built products for the Windows platform."

The EU's case against Microsoft concerns the Redmond, Washington-based company's practice of locking new features into its Windows software to help sell upgrades. The U.S. software giant says such "bundling" benefits consumers, but rivals call it unfair competition since Windows runs 90 percent of personal computers worldwide.

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