Microsoft Legal Team Blows It: Could Have Won EU Antitrust Case

When Microsoft settled its antitrust charges with the European Union last year, it didn’t know it was just one vote away from successfully appealing a 2004 ruling:

Bloomberg: Judges voted 7-6 against Microsoft on Sept. 17, 2007, according to two people with direct knowledge of the outcome. They declined to be identified because EU court votes are confidential. It should have appealed to try to end the European Commission’s case for once and for all, said Toan Tran, an analyst at Morningstar Inc. in Chicago.

Microsoft had sought to overturn a 497 million-euro ($719 million) fine stemming from a 2004 decision that it failed to offer rivals access to some data. The Redmond, Washington-based company didn’t know about the divided vote until May, according to a person familiar with Microsoft’s case.

While bad news for Microsoft, other companies that might have been scared of the EU courts can rest a little easier.

The close vote may indicate that EU courts aren’t a rubber stamp for commission decisions. Knowledge of the split may influence U.S. technology companies facing antitrust probes, such as Intel Corp. and Qualcomm Inc., in their legal battles.

“Investors should be paying attention,” said Jason Pompeii, an analyst in Chicago at Fitch Inc. who’s followed technology companies for more than five years. “That the vote was indeed so close suggests there was less consensus that this was the right thing to do, which bodes more favourably for companies currently under investigation.”

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