Microsoft Asks U.S. Courts for Help with EU

Following accusations last week that the European Commission was "secretly working" with four rivals, Microsoft has turned to federal district courts in the United States for help. The Redmond company is asking the courts to order IBM, Oracle, Sun and Novell to hand over documents relating to its EU antitrust case.

The four companies allegedly supplied the Commission with evidence that Microsoft was not properly complying with a March 2004 ruling against it. The company also claims the EU is withholding key documents that could help its case.

Microsoft had been ordered to sell a version of Windows without its Media Player software, as well as divulge portions of Windows Server protocols. A December Statement of Objections from the EU threatened Microsoft with fines of 2 million euros per day for not complying with the latter requirement.

The company says it has obtained documents that show the EU regulator had "inappropriate" communication with computer science professor Neil Barrett, who testified that technical documentation provided by Microsoft were not sufficient.

"Our repeated requests to the European Commission for full and fair file access have not been successful, so we are now turning to the U.S. courts for assistance," said Microsoft associate general counsel Horacio Gutierrez.

Microsoft cited a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allowed AMD to see documents relating to Intel's antitrust proceedings in Europe, calling itself an "interested person." The company asked the courts to consider the request immediately, as Microsoft officials must appear at an oral hearing on March 30.

If Microsoft is found not in compliance at that point, fines would be applied from December 15, 2005 and the date of the decision. The company could end up paying an additional 100 to 200 million euros in fines on top of the 497 million euros it was ordered to pay initially.

Microsoft's appeal of the original decision will be heard by the European Court of First Instance in April.

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