Last week the Competition Directorate of the European Commission and Microsoft again did battle in the European courts. This time it was a hearing in the European Court of Justice to argue the propriety of the fine levied on Microsoft by the Commission stemming from the 2004 determination that Microsoft was violating EU competition laws. Microsoft was appealing the $1.3 billion fine on the grounds that it was excessive and had not been arrived at through proper due process.
In 1998 Sun Microsystems lodged a complaint with the European Commission asserting, among other things, that Microsoft was abusing its dominant position (what those of us from the U.S. would think of as using illegal means to maintain a monopoly) by refusing to disclose necessary interoperability information pertaining to Microsoft’s desktop and related workgroup server technology. After extensive investigation, in 2004 the Commission issued a decision in the case and found Microsoft to have violated competition law. Among other remedies, Microsoft was ordered to make its workgroup server protocols available to competitors on a reasonable and non-discriminatory (RAND) basis and was fined approximately $800 million. Microsoft sought annulment of the Commission decision and fine, but the Commission was upheld by the Court of First Instance in 2007.