Microsoft secures more time in EU anti-trust case

The EU has extended the deadline for Microsoft to respond to the latest charges in the long-running anti-trust case against it, before new fines are imposed.

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The EU has extended the deadline for Microsoft to respond to the latest charges in the long-running anti-trust case against it.

The extension comes a week after the EU's anti-trust chief blasted Microsoft for continuing to make millions using tactics declared illegal in a 2004 ruling.

The EU's Competition Commission had originally set 3 April as the date for Microsoft to respond to charges that it has overpriced protocol documentation necessary for rivals to make their programs work smoothly with its server software. The new deadline has been pushed back nearly three weeks, to 23 April.

Microsoft requested the additional time, said a commission spokesperson and it was granted by the hearing officer handling the case.

A Microsoft spokesperson confirmed that the company asked for the extension. "We have until 23 April to submit our response and [we] intend to do so by that date."

The 2004 ruling ordered Microsoft to share several server protocols with competitors and fined Microsoft a record £306m. Last July, the commission added another £160m in fines, saying Microsoft was dragging its feet in preparing the documentation. Microsoft has appealed both fines to EU courts.

On 1 March, however, Commissioner Neelie Kroes said that the documentation Microsoft had assembled lacked "significant innovation" and thus the prices it charges were "unreasonable". She threatened new fines of £2m per day if Microsoft did not respond within 30 days.

At the time, Microsoft's general counsel, Brad Smith, complained that the EU was again changing the rules. "The proposed findings suggest that unless our intellectual property is innovative and patentable, it has to be made available royalty free," he said. "That has never been the standard for software or other intellectual property."

Last week, Kroes turned up the heat in speech before the European Parliament, where she said it was "unacceptable" that Microsoft has continued to gain server software market share since the 2004 decision. Since then, Kroes said, the company's share in the EU has climbed from around 60% to between 70% and 75%.

Microsoft has the right to an oral hearing before any new fines are levied.

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