Sun, Mar 05, 2006 - Page 11 News List

Microsoft demands rivals' EU files

ANTITRUST FIGHT The software titan asked US courts to force IBM, Sun Microsystems, Oracle and Novell to turn over their correspondence with the European Commission

AP , BRUSSELS, BELGIUM

Microsoft Corp asked US courts on Friday to compel Sun Microsystems Inc, IBM Corp, Oracle Corp and Novell Inc to hand over correspondence with EU regulators on Microsoft's antitrust battle in Europe.

It filed applications with courts in New York, Massachusetts and California, saying they could order US citizens to provide evidence for use in foreign legal action.

Microsoft said it needs to see these documents to understand how an independent expert came to write reports highly critical of the company's efforts to comply with the EU's 2004 antitrust order.

"We are now turning to the US courts for assistance in obtaining relevant communications between our US competitors and the Commission, the technical experts it relies on and the trustee," said Horacio Gutierrez, the company's associate general counsel in Europe.

Representatives from Sun, IBM and Oracle did not immediately return calls seeking comment. Novell spokesman Bruce Lowry said that he couldn't immediately comment because the company hasn't seen the suit.

The software giant's dispute with the European Commission took a turn for the worse in December when the EU antitrust authority charged that Microsoft had not obeyed an order to provide competitors with the information needed to make their software work with Microsoft servers.

The EU has threatened to fine Microsoft 2 million euros (US$2.4 million) a day, backdated to Dec. 15. It warned on Friday that the company was on course to be fined if it kept up its current conduct.

Microsoft claims it worked strenuously to meet EU demands last autumn. It now says it believes the Commission colluded with its rivals and two outside experts ahead of the latest charges.

The EU said on Thursday that it could not comment on Microsoft's allegations.

Microsoft alleged that regulators had "inappropriate contacts" with independent monitor Neil Barrett and rival companies. It said that called into question the impartiality of a report Barrett wrote that said the technical documentation Microsoft had supplied needed a drastic overhaul to be workable.

Gutierrez said on Thursday that the company first saw some correspondence between the Commission and its four US rivals on Feb. 13 that it said suggested that the Commission, the trustee, and Microsoft's adversaries were secretly collaborating throughout the fall of last year "in a manner inconsistent with the Commission's role as neutral regulator and the trustee's role as independent monitor."

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