MS-DOJ: EU pursuit of Microsoft continues

The European Commission has declined to comment about the latest twist in the US government case against Microsoft, although an...

The European Commission has declined to comment about the latest twist in the US government case against Microsoft, although an official with the Competition Office said the European case is "factually and legally different" from that of the US.

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) and state attorneys general informed Microsoft on 6 September that they would not seek a break-up of the company or pursue the issue of whether the software maker illegally tied its Internet Explorer (IE) browser to the Windows operating system.

At the start of September, however, the European Commission combined two separate antitrust investigations into Microsoft, and added new accusations that by bundling its Media Player music and video streaming software with Windows, the company is abusing its dominant position.

The new strands in the EU case resemble the discarded US claim that Microsoft bundled IE with Windows; however, the official denied that the two authorities had cooperated on the matter. "In merger rulings there is closer cooperation, but with antitrust [cases] there are limits to the amount of cooperation, such as exchanging information," the official said.

Exchanging sensitive corporate information between regulators requires the permission of the companies involved and John Frank, Microsoft's senior corporate attorney in Europe, said the company had not been asked for such permission.

In 1994, the European Commission and the DOJ jointly forced Microsoft to abandon its licensing agreements making PC makers pay royalties on PCs regardless of whether or not they had Microsoft software pre-installed. At the time, the Commission hailed the joint ruling as a model of how to tackle giant companies.

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