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Wednesday, July 28, 2004
MS court battle with EU starts today


Microsoft goes to court in Luxembourg day to take the first step in trying to suspend European Commission sanctions imposed on the software giant for violating anti-trust law.

European Union Court of First Instance Judge Bo Vesterdorf called the informal meeting to discuss scheduling of a hearing on Microsoft's application, people familiar with the situation say. The hearing itself is likely to take place in September.

Microsoft wants the court to waive commission sanctions until the entire case is completed, which is likely to take three years or more.

The commission says that if the remedies are suspended they will become irrelevant by the time the case is over years from now, while Microsoft says the sanctions will damage the company in ways that cannot be undone.

Also present at the hearing will be other interested parties.

In March, the EU executive ordered Microsoft to offer a version of its Windows operating system without its Media Player audiovisual software, to provide more information to rival makers of server software and to pay a record fine of 497 million euros ($612.3 million). Microsoft has paid the fine.

The commission gave Microsoft 90 days to get ready to carry out the remedies, but Microsoft is still negotiating with the commission and has said it is not ready to remove Media Player.

Microsoft will need "some greater clarification ... in terms of knowing what files we're to remove from Windows" in order to comply, its general counsel, Brad Smith, said in a telephone conference call with reporters in early July. That has not changed, people familiar with the situation say.

Microsoft won a major victory on sanctions in the US, and people close to the case say it is officially making the court in Luxembourg aware of that court's reasoning where it overlaps with the European case.

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