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The Register: MS to Europe: opening source would break patent laws

Dec 04, 2001, 22:28 (29 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by John Lettice)
"Could this be a gauntlet? In its response to the European Commission's accusations of anti-competitive behaviour, Microsoft has claimed that the Commission forcing it to license its source code would break international patent laws. And it has noted: 'The proceedings before the Commission are inevitably affected by the settlement that Microsoft has entered into with the US Department of Justice.'"

These little snippets from the 102 page document, which was leaked to Bloomberg yesterday, might just be read as Microsoft drawing a line in the sand. The Commission does indeed have the power to force Microsoft to license its source code, but if it did so it would, in Microsoft's view, be breaking international law, and setting itself up for a tussle with the US authorities and the World Trade Organisation. It almost sounds like a threat, and that might not be wise at this juncture. The reference to the DoJ deal reinforces this - if the penalties imposed by the Commission are seriously tougher than those negotiated in the US, the sometimes precarious detente between European and US antitrust authorities could collapse. Do you feel lucky, Mario?

Microsoft does however seem to be over-egging the pudding by going on about "compulsory licensing," which is what it claims Sun and IBM have asked for. Sun's complaint, could be tackled effectively simply by allowing the company access to those parts of Microsoft's code that link client systems to servers - WABI was a long time ago, and Sun most definitely didn't ask the Commission for help in reviving it. IBM's complaint, on the other hand, is an enigma. Until Microsoft mentioned it we'd no idea that IBM had made a complaint, and frankly, we doubt it has. Big Blue skulking in the shadows in Brussels alleyways again, undoubtedly, sticking stilettos into hapless monopolists..."

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