European Commission slaps legal precedent on Microsoft

The European Commission will rule against Microsoft this week, delighting its competitors, led by Allen & Overy (A&O) client Sun Microsystems.

Competition Commissioner Mario Monti said last Thursday (18 March) that settlement talks had broken down and that the commission is now expected to rule that Microsoft has abused its dominant position in the software market.

Microsoft’s US counsel Sullivan & Cromwell has advised throughout the case, but the conglomerate also employed an incredible array of secondary legal advisers.

At one stage Linklaters, which has strong ties to Sullivan in litigation, was advising through Bill Allan. However, at the oral hearing, White & Case’s Ian Forrester appeared. Microsoft also used Belgian firm Van Bael & Bellis name partner Jean-Francois Bellis and Covington & Burling Brussels managing partner David Harfst during the process.

The move is a serious blow to Microsoft, which will now have a legally binding precedent against it in Europe – something which it has so far avoided in the US.

The A&O team was led by Michael Reynolds, who said: “This is all about the enforcement. A decision gives a much higher degree of enforcement than a settlement because there’s a legal framework.”

Monti said in a statement: “In the end, I had to decide what was best for competition and consumers in Europe. I believe they will be better served with a decision that creates a strong precedent.”