Microsoft, EU Await Court Ruling On Order

The Luxembourg-based European Court of First Instance will rule Wednesday on whether to stay the EU's March order pending an appeal by Microsoft. The U.S. company has said the willingness to get back around the table in the wake of the ruling will be just as important.

"We continue to believe that these complex issues are best resolved through discussions between the parties," Microsoft said in a statement Monday.

The two sides were involved in settlement talks before EU antitrust regulators fined Microsoft a record 497 million euros ($666 million) and told the company to reveal some of its trade secrets to competitors and produce a Windows platform without its digital Media Player.

Judge Bo Vesterdorf has been assessing the case since the final hearings in early October. His decision had been expected as early as last Friday.

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Both sides can appeal his decision, but Microsoft has indicated it is unlikely to do so unless it includes startling arguments against the software company. "Microsoft looks forward to reading the court order," the company said.

It has already stressed that the probability of the judge ruling in its favor is small, highlighting that only 17 percent of cases in the last 10 years have suspended the impact of a ruling until an appeal is heard.

It will be pushing for talks but the EU has said it is wary of reopening settlement negotiations before fully assessing the impact of Vesterdorf's ruling. The full appeals process could take up to five more years of litigation, something Microsoft wants to avoid.

Vesterdorf could suspend part or all of the ruling, which the EU says punishes Microsoft for abusively wielding its Windows software monopoly and locking competitors out of the market.

The ruling will come a month after EU backers Novell and the Washington-based Computer and Communications Industry Association pulled out of the case following deals with Microsoft.

Microsoft has settled with four of the five major interveners in the EU's case, having previously spent 1.83 billion euros ($2.4 billion) settling claims by Time Warner and Sun Microsystems.

RealNetworks, maker of a rival to Microsoft's digital Media Player application, is Microsoft's last big commercial opponent in the case.

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