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Doors open at EU's Microsoft case

Doors open at EU's Microsoft case

Five allies of Microsoft and four of the European Commission have won the right to intervene in the software giant's antitrust case before a European Union court in Luxembourg.

The European Commission decided nearly a year ago that Microsoft competed unfairly against competitors, fined it 497 million euros (345 million pounds) and ordered it to offer a stripped-down version of Windows and share some protocols with rival makers of servers.

Microsoft appealed against the decision and the case is now before a panel of five judges at the Court of First Instance in Luxembourg.

Court of First Instance Judge Hubert Legal, the president of the five-member panel, issued the 10-page order, which allows companies and organisations to become part of the case.

Legal filings in the European Union courts are closed to the public but are open to the intervenors. However, the version of the documents sent to the intervenors will be stripped of commercial secrets.

The intervenors also have a right to file legal papers in the case and their lawyers will be able to argue at hearings on the case.

The court allows participation of a group when they need "to protect their members in cases raising questions of principle that are likely to affect their members," Legal said in his order.

Those on each side include companies and lobbying groups from Europe and the United States, many of whom appeared at an earlier hearing in the case to determine if remedies against the company should be suspended until the case was complete.

The remedies were not suspended, but Microsoft has yet to comply with them to the satisfaction of the Commission.

The Microsoft allies who may intervene include the Association for Competitive Technology of Washington, D.C., which has been a long-time ally of Microsoft and is partially funded by it through dues.

Second is another long-time ally, the Computer Technology Industry Association, CompTIA, of Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois.

The others are companies or groups of companies, including BV of the Netherlands, along with a group of other companies which say they are involved in the media, entertainment and telecommunications businesses in Sweden and Britain.

Fourth is Mamut of Norway and TeamSystem of Italy and last is Exor of Sweden.

For the Commission, the first intervenor is RealNetworks, which is one of the companies that the Commission found was damaged by Microsoft.

The Commission also has the support of a trade group, the Software and Information Industry Association of Washington, and of a group promoting non-profit or free software, the Free Software Foundation of Hamburg. It also has the support of VideoBanner of Los Angeles.

Notably absent were those who withdrew last year after settling with Microsoft.

They include the Computer and Communications Industry Association, which received about $20 million as a settlement and Novell Inc, which withdrew after it received a payment of $536 million from Microsoft.

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