COMMENTARY: Microsoft officials are hoping that the company's long and winding road to legal victory in the US antitrust case will show European Union (EU) officials that Microsoft is curbing its abusive behaviour.
Although EU antitrust laws differ from US antitrust laws and the concerns raised in the EU antitrust case are different, Microsoft believes that both cases address the same questions.
"I do hope that people in Europe and around the world will pause and perhaps take a bit of time [to read the appellate court decision that ended the final legal challenge to the company's US case]," Microsoft senior vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary Bradford L. Smith said this weekend. "The decision addresses many of the precisely same questions that are front and centre in Europe."
The message is clear: The EU courts don't need to punish Microsoft because the US courts are already curbing the company's behaviour. But are they?
One of the frequent complaints about Microsoft's US settlement is that it does little to punish the company or change its behaviour. Massachusetts and various industry groups have argued for months that the company's behaviour since the settlement proves that Microsoft hasn't curbed its behaviour in any way.
And the EU's charges, which involve product bundling and withholding technical information from competitors, sound eerily similar to the concerns that the US case raised, even though the entire EU investigation occurred after the US case was resolved.
Regardless of any differences between EU and US law, however, one similarity is likely to be repeated. With an appeals process that could last several years, any eventual outcome in the EU case is likely to be rendered years after it could be an effective curb. As with the US antitrust case, Microsoft can expect a prolonged victory, regardless of how the courts word their decisions.