Five vendors join against Microsoft in EU case
IBM, Oracle, Nokia, Red Hat and RealNetworks ask to intervene
IDG News Service - PARIS -- Five large technology companies have banded together to support the European Commission in its attempt to stop Microsoft Corp. from using its PC operating systems monopoly to dominate the markets for workgroup server and media player software.
IBM, Nokia Corp., Oracle Corp., RealNetworks Inc. and Red Hat Inc. have applied as a group to intervene against Microsoft as the company appeals the commission's antitrust ruling, "because they are very concerned about Microsoft's anticompetitive conduct," according to their representative, Thomas Vinje, a partner at the law firm Clifford Chance LLP.
"Microsoft has been saying that the commission stands alone and that it didn't have industry support. This demonstrates that that is untrue, that there is growing support for the commission," Vinje said.
In March 2004, the commission ordered Microsoft to pay a fine of $639 million, sell a version of its Windows operating system without Windows Media Player and allow other companies access to information needed to make their workgroup server products work smoothly with PCs running Windows. Microsoft appealed the ruling in June.
The five companies asked the European Union's Court of First Instance for permission to intervene in the appeal through an umbrella organization, the European Committee for Interoperable Systems (ECIS). Only parties that can show that the case will directly affect them may apply to intervene. The court has already granted RealNetworks permission to intervene in the appeal. Intervenors are allowed to access the court's case file and to make written comments on the proceedings.
After Microsoft lodged its appeal, it began settling long-standing disputes with some of the companies and organizations that had opposed it in the case, including Sun Microsystems Inc. and the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA).
Oracle and Red Hat are still members of the association, but Nokia left when the association settled with Microsoft and withdrew from the European antitrust case. Vinje previously represented the association in the antitrust case.
The five vendors as a group asked to intervene in the case in December or January -- after the usual deadline for filing such requests had passed, Vinje said. The group asked for the deadline to be waived because of the exceptional circumstances surrounding the CCIA's withdrawal from the case, and it is now up to the court to decide whether to accept the ECIS request, he said.
Parties that apply to intervene after the deadline may not normally make written interventions or access the court's case file, but they may be allowed to intervene orally at hearings, according to court spokesman Christopher Fretwell. He declined to say
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