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4/23/2007
04:49 PM
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Microsoft Seeks More Talks With EU To Settle Licensing Dispute

The company avoids $4 million-a-day fines with an 11th-hour response to allegations that it continues to overcharge rivals for compatibility tools.

Microsoft on Monday dodged -- at least temporarily -- European Union fines of up to $4 million per day by submitting an 11th-hour response to allegations that it continues to overcharge rivals for the tools they need to make their products compatible with the Windows operating system.

Microsoft's response, however, may fall well short of satisfying the EU's competition watchdogs. The company merely told the EU that it needs "greater clarity on what prices the commission wants us to charge" and called for more talks on the issue, according to a statement released Thursday by the software maker.

The EU on March 1 gave Microsoft until Monday to answer allegations that it uses monopolistic practices to inflate royalty prices for interoperability tools or face daily fines of up to $4 million. The EU said it would weigh Microsoft's response in deciding whether to proceed with the penalties.

Microsoft said it wants to settle the issue through informal talks. In a statement, Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith said the company believes that the information it needs "is more likely to come from a constructive conversation than from a formal hearing."

Microsoft competitors immediately said the company's call for more talks is "another example of its chronic foot-dragging toward anti-trust compliance," according to a statement issued Monday by the European Committee for Interoperable Systems, a lobbying group consisting of Adobe, IBM, Corel, Red Hat, and other Microsoft rivals.

Under a 2004 anti-trust settlement with the EU, Microsoft is required to provide competitors with access to its file and print server protocols and other interoperability documentation on a "reasonable and nondiscriminatory basis."

EU officials maintain that Microsoft has failed to live up to the agreement.

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