12.08.09

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Microsoft Gets Its Way in the European Commission

Posted in Europe, Interoperability, Microsoft, Patents at 5:24 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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Summary: The Microsoft-stuffed European Commission is caving in to Microsoft and the threat of software patents in Europe grows

THERE are (at least) two antitrust-related cases in Europe which affect Microsoft. The first relates to Web browsers and the second relates to interoperability, along with the relation to software patents. What will the new European Commission do regarding these cases now that it’s filled with more Microsoft-sympathetic people?

The first type of case we have covered in:

  1. Mozilla Unofficially Joins ECIS and Opera in Opposition to Microsoft’s Deal in Europe; Microsoft Poisoned Firefox
  2. Parties Behind Complaints Against Microsoft in EU Not Pleased
  3. Microsoft’s Older Crimes Against Web Browsers Return, Microsoft’s New Attacks on JavaScript Revisited
  4. Opera Complains About Vista 7
  5. Microsoft Bypasses the Law and Breaks the Web for Opera and GNU/Linux Users, Again
  6. Mozilla and Opera Still Object to Microsoft’s Deal with the Commission
  7. Microsoft Hopes a Tickbox Will Restore Fair Competition in Europe; Opera Disagrees
  8. Microsoft Crowd Incites People Against Rival Web Browsers
  9. A Ballot Screen is Not Justice, Internet Explorer Still Compromises Users’ PCs

The second case we most recently covered in:

  1. Glyn Moody on European Commission’s Inability to Defend Free Software in Face of Microsoft Lies
  2. Microsoft Wins Free Software-Hostile Deal in Europe, Its Front Group ACT Pleased
  3. European Commission Still Protects Microsoft Lobbyists
  4. ECIS on the Patent Licensing Paradox, Microsoft Confesses Licensing Tricks

According to Reuters, there might be a settlement regarding the first case. It might be announced later today.

Three people familiar with the situation said the European Commission was expected to approve on Tuesday Microsoft’s plan to make it easier for consumers to choose rival browsers on the firm’s Windows operating system, which is used on a majority of personal computers.

The decision would allow Microsoft to avoid another hefty penalty, after it had been fined a total of 1.68 billion euros ($2.5 billion) by the Commission over charges it breached EU antitrust rules.

Opera Software, which initiated this case, is seeing a growth in userbase.

Opera Software announces that within one week of its release, more than 12 million people downloaded Opera 10.10 with Opera Unite.

Regarding the second case, the patent situation in Europe [1, 2, 3] must make Microsoft very pleased. Neelie Kroes was not principally against software patents, despite the fact that they are illegal in the continent. Microsoft and its lobbyists must have brainwashed her. Not only its pressure groups lobbied for this to happen but Microsoft too made it clear that it wants a single patent system (a global one) through which to impose software patents on everyone. As eWEEK Europe puts it:

Companies including Microsoft have been pushing for a more international approach to patents. In September, Microsoft’s Horacio Gutierrez corporate vice president and deputy general counsel said that over 3.5 million patent applications are pending around the world, including over 750,000 in the U.S – and the costs and time-delays are too high at present. A single global patent system would ease the burden on companies and patent offices.

“In today’s world of universal connectivity, global business and collaborative innovation, it is time for a world patent that is derived from a single patent application, examined and prosecuted by a single examining authority and litigated before a single judicial body,” he said.

In 2006, Microsoft and Linux-distribution owner Novell signed an interoperability collaboration agreement which included some protection relating to Microsoft’s ownership of intellectual property in the open source operating system.

It is all said in relation to pan-EU patents, which pose new problems other than the overriding of existing patent law in many countries.

European ministers have reached agreement on a new EU-wide patent structure after lengthy negotiations but have failed to find a way past the biggest obstacle to an EU-wide patent: the cost of translation.

Ministers have approved a new litigation system to deal with a new Europe-wide patent in a deal that will still require the approval of the European Parliament and the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).

Translation is not the greatest problem if patent law gets perturbed to fit the agenda of stakeholders such as Microsoft, not to mention the pharmaceutical cartel which turns out to be killing people by driving competitors out of the market. [via]

Drug-Makers Paying Off Competitors To Keep Cheap Generics Off Market

Republicans and their allies in the business community talk a good game about the virtues of free-market competition. But, as we’ve seen in the debate over the public option, that stance often goes out the window when corporate profits are at stake.

And now we’ve got another example — one of the sleaziest and most blatantly self-serving yet.

Another great example of patents being used against people. Bill Gates is investing in this practice [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8], amongst others.

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