As reported in detail in our earlier Bulletin the EU Court of First Instance in September upheld the EU Commission ruling that Microsoft had contravened competition laws. Microsoft must:
- provide its competitors in the server software market with sufficient interoperability information to enable PCs using Windows to operate with a server using non-Microsoft server software;
- unbundle its Media Player software from Microsoft Office; and
- pay the EUR 497 million fine (and also the penalties for late compliance)
Following the Court decision the EU Commission in its Press Release made it clear that it regarded these to be exceptional circumstances and that "super-dominance" like Microsoft's is rare. Other leading tech companies are still however justifiably nervous, particularly in light of recent Commission investigations of Qualcomm (discussed further below), Intel and Rambus.
The Microsoft decision highlights that the Commission can (and will) use competition law to force the holders of IP rights to licence them to competitors if interoperability issues are limiting technical development to the prejudice of consumers. There is also a justifiable concern amongst tech companies that they will now also become the focus of national competition regulators.