Microsoft adds lawyer for Commission clash

Microsoft has appointed a new in-house lawyer to lead its antitrust battle with the European Commission following an overhaul of its core in-house IP team.

Erich Andersen will replace Horacio Gutierrez as Europe, the Middle East and Africa associate general counsel for law and corporate affairs.

Microsoft’s top management called Gutierrez back to its headquarters in Redmond, Washington DC, after promoting him to vice-president and deputy general counsel for IP and licensing.

He will be responsible for Microsoft’s global IP portfolio, reporting to general counsel Brad Smith.

The IP portfolio will keep Gutierrez busy, comprising as it does 3,000 patents and more than 11,000 trademark registrations worldwide.

Gutierrez takes over from the respected Marshall Phelps, who has spent three years as head of IP at Microsoft. Phelps, who joined Microsoft after 28 years at IBM, has moved into a strategic role to work on the future of the company’s IP policy.

Andersen has been with Microsoft for 11 years as a lawyer in the product department, handling legal matters for Windows and Microsoft Office.

He worked on the three-year dispute with Sun Microsystems over Java licensing technology, which Microsoft settled in 2001 for $20m (£10.54m).

Andersen was transferred from Microsoft’s Redmond HQ to the company’s Paris base, but will spend much of his time in Brussels working with the Commission.

His first job will be to patch up relations with Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes after a public row this summer.

In July the Commission fined Microsoft $280.5m (£193.47m) for failing to comply with its 2004 antitrust ruling. Microsoft general counsel Smith said he would appeal the fine.

The fine exasperated Microsoft, which had agreed a plan of action with the Commission’s technical trustee Neil Barratt in April.