The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has rejected Microsoft’s appeal against the European Commission’s decision of 2008 to fine the company for not having shared interoperability information to its competitors, in a long case first brought by the European Commission's competition watchdog in 1998.
A record fine of 899 million Euro was given by the European Commission in 2008, which decided that, by the end of 2007, Microsoft had not fulfilled its obligations under the "Reasonable And Non Discriminatory (RAND)" conditions which had been imposed to the company. "The General Court essentially upholds the commission’s decision imposing a periodic penalty payment on Microsoft for failing to allow its competitors access to interoperability information on reasonable terms," was the court statement.
Microsoft had refused to reveal their changes in the public protocols under the excuse of patents. The company claimed that, as the information contained in the release was covered by patents and therefore innovative, the company was in its right to charge its competitors for access to this information. The court ruled that Microsoft’s argument was wrong as there was no need for a license.
Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) and the Samba Team, which has also intervened in the case, denied that the information provided by Microsoft was innovative. "Microsoft in practice continued to refuse Free Software developers all access to the interoperability information, which was not something that the letter recognised it could legitimately do," was the court’s decision.
"We have successfully asserted the rights of Free Software developers like the Samba Team to access interoperability information, but Microsoft refused our legitimate demands until the very end. Today's decision establishes that we were right once again. Receiving the interoperability information was our right, not a concession by Microsoft”, said Carlo Piana, General Counsel for FSFE.
The court however reduced the fine from 899 million Euro to 860 million Euro because, in 2005, the European Commission accepted in a letter that Microsoft could restrict the distribution of open source products until the Court's judgement in September 2007. As FSFE notices, large companies such as Microsoft, Apple or Google are still trying to keep the market under control, by abusing patents in order to limit the sales of products and therefore, preserve their market shares.
Joaquin Almunia, the EC's competition commissioner, said in February 2012 that the Commission would “continue to keep a close eye on the behaviour of all market players in the sector, particularly the increasingly strategic use of patents."
Source: EDRI-gram „ECJ decided Microsoft must pay a 860 million Euro fine“ Number 10.13 јули 2012