Microsoft backs off appeal on EU sanctions

Software giant takes longer-term appeal route instead

Microsoft has decided not to appeal a ruling by an European Union EU judge that upholds sanctions imposed on the company by the European Commission, a spokesman for the firm confirmed this week.

Dirk Delmartino, corporate public relations manager for Microsoft Europe, Middle East and Africa, said that the company "decided to forgo its right to appeal against the Court of First Instance's interim measures ruling of December 22, 2004."

In December, the President of the EU's Court of First Instance, Bo Vesterdorf, rejected a request from Microsoft to suspend sanctions ordered by the Commission for abusing the dominant market position of its Windows PC operating system.

The sanctions include forcing Microsoft to offer a version of Windows without Windows Media Player, publishing its APIs (application programming interfaces) for its workgroup server software and paying a fine of €497 million (US$931 million).

The judge said in December that Microsoft failed to prove that the company would suffer "irreparable harm" by complying with the Commission's demands and that the measures could be reversed at a later date without long-term damage to the company if Microsoft eventually wins, on appeal, the overall European antitrust case.

Delmartino said that rather than seeking to suspend the Commission's measures, the company's focus was now on "working constructively with the Commission on their full and prompt implementation."

He said that the company had made available "licensing information for communications protocols" and was supplying the first version of Windows without Media Player to computer manufacturers. Delmartino added that the European edition of Windows would be made available to retailers and other parts the distribution chain in the coming weeks.

The Microsoft spokesman stressed, however, that although the company was not appealing the Court of First Instance ruling from December it would continue to seek to have the Commission's sanctions overturned as part of a longer-term appeal against the measures. "We expect to learn later this year when the Court will hold a hearing on our appeal," he said.

Delmartino said that the company remained "very optimistic as we move forward in this process and are encouraged that the December court order noted that a number of Microsoft's arguments could provide a basis for overturning the EC's decision."

The longer-term appeal in the European Court of Justice is expected to take up to five years.

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