EU Decision May Bolster Further Antitrust Litigation

The Computer and Communications Industry Association is next in line for Microsoft's battle against antitrust lawsuits.
PARIS — The European Commission, after hitting Microsoft Corp. with a historic antitrust ruling and a $613 million fine, is apparently not finished with the American software giant.

Microsoft's next European headache is a complaint by the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA), whose members include mobile phone giant Nokia.

According to a CCIA attorney, the EC's antitrust ruling against Microsoft on Wednesday (March 24) "provides a solid framework and allocates a precedent" to the mobile phone sector to pursue antitrust litigation against Microsoft.

Following the EC ruling, CCIA, a computer and communication industry lobbying group, vowed to "turn up the heat" to bolster its own case. The group filed a complaint with the EC last year involving Microsoft's Windows XP operating system.

Thomas Vinje, a Brussels-based attorney, claimed the Commissioner's decision brings the CCIA's complaint — still being investigated by EC antitrust enforcers — "from simmering to boil." He added, "We will pursue this case more vigorously by updating our complaint and providing further evidence."

The pending CCIA case, which deals with the entire Windows XP operating system, is much more extensive than previous complaints against Microsoft. It follows up on the basic issues unerlying this week's ruling against Microsoft. CCIA members claim that XP allows Microsoft to preserve an existing monopoly, making it easier to leverage its dominance into new markets.

Microsoft abuses quoted in the CCIA complaint include the bundling of products such as Instant Messenger, Outlook Express and Movie Player onto Windows XP. In a specific reference related to the mobile sector, the industry group accuses Microsoft of "leveraging [its] existing dominant position to the markets for handheld computing devices and smart phone software through bundling, failure to supply interface information and the use of proprietary formats and protocols."

Sources close to Nokia confirmed that there is "a concrete problem with obtaining information from Microsoft." Specifically, they said this occurred when Nokia tried to make its mobile handset applications — such as calendaring software — exchange data with the Windows desktop operating system. Vinje said CCIA is hopeful the EC will provide a speedier resolution to its complaint. With an EC team of investigators "up to speed with all the technical and legal issues" involved in the Microsoft case, Vinje added, "The resources are already there. They can hit the ground running."

While the EC's just completed case against Microsoft took five years, a decision on the CCIA complaint "within two years would be realistic," he said.

Along with Nokia, CCIA members include Kodak, Verizon, Sun Microsystems, Oracle, Fujitsu, Oki and AOL.

Washington-based CCIA also played a role in the U.S. antitrust case against Microsoft. The group advocates open systems and networks.

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