European Commision vs Microsoft: chronology of the case
|1998||Sun complains to the EC on Microsoft's dominant position as a supplier of operating systems for personal computers.|
|02/2000||EC launches investigation on Microsoft's anti-competitive conduct (“Case No. COMP/C-3/37.792”). Two main issues are under investigation: (1) lack of interoperability information, and (2) incorporation of Windows Media Player with the Windows operating system.|
|16/11/2001||FSFE applies for third-party status in the ongoing EC investigation towards Microsoft.
In its application, FSFE asks to be allowed to intervene in order to represent the interests of the Free Software movement on grounds that “Microsoft cited Free Software as its principal competitor and is using various methods to attack the Free Software movement... FSFE believes that some of Microsoft's methods of attack are against free competition, and should be investigated by the EU Commission.”
|30/11/2001||FSFE asks for an access to non-confidential documents, statements and replies from Microsoft.|
|12/12/2001||FSFE is granted the third party status and the access to non-confidential documents, statements and replies from Microsoft.
Inter alia, the third party status is granted to the Association for Competitive Technology, Time Warner Inc., the Computer & Communications Industry Association, the Computing Technology Industry Association, Lotus Corporation, Novell Inc., RealNetworks, Inc., and the Software & Information Industry Association.
|21/01/2002||FSFE's comments on the case No. COMP/C-3/37.792 against Microsoft.
Inter alia, it states that “Microsoft's protocols are designed in a highly interdependent way: each (proprietary) protocol depends on the correct implementation of another (proprietary) protocol to work properly. Full functionality and interoperability can only be achieved when all protocols are known... Discriminatory licensing, Windows Media Player, RAND - are in fact discriminatory against free software, as they require a licensing scheme which is incompatible with that of free software. In order to bring the infringements to an end, Microsoft should be required to publish their current and future interface specifications, without any restrictions or royalty requirements that would make it impossible for free software to support them.”
|2003||Market inquiry, conducted by the EC.|
|08/2003||The Samba team sends a letter to the EC. The Samba Team explains that they are not able to sign the Microsoft license agreements as these agreements request per-client royalty payments.|
|11/09/2003||FSFE's submission to the EC, regarding, specifically, Microsoft's settlement in the United States and its ineffectiveness at bringing back competition into the market.
The Samba Team proposes that the European Union should require Microsoft to make its proprietary protocol information and its proprietary application data formats (the Microsoft Office file formats) available in a royalty-free, non-discriminatory fashion, in exactly the same way as the TCP/IP protocol itself is available.
|11/2003||Private oral hearing at the EC.|
|24/03/2004||The final decision of the EC on the case No. COMP/C-3/37.792 against Microsoft (“the 2004 Decision”) is released. |
The EC finds that Microsoft's behaviour constitutes two separate abuses. The first abuse is in “the creation and sole exploitation of a its dominant position in the market of PC operating systems which disrupt previous levels of interoperability.” Microsoft has unlawfully refused to supply its competitors with interoperability information and to authorise the use of that information. The EC finds that “the interoperability information at stake is indispensable for competitors to be able to viably compete in the work group server operating system market.” The EC explicitly states that the findings of the 2004 Decision do not relate to the Microsoft's source codes. Second, the EC finds that Microsoft’s tying behaviour harms competition in the market for streaming media players. This infringement constitutes by its nature a very serious infringement of Article 82 of the EC Treaty and Article 54 of the EEA Agreement.
The EC concludes that Microsoft's conduct justifies the imposition of EUR 497,2 million fine.
|27/05/2004||Microsoft releases its compliance measures with the 2004 Decision.
Inter alia, it states that “Microsoft is in the process of identifying all of the protocol technology that the company has developed in its Windows family of operating system products in order to provide the software services specified in Article 1(1) of the Decision.” Microsoft is also dedicating a team of software development engineers and technical writers to the task of creating a complete and accurate set of specifications describing the relevant protocols.
Also Microsoft suggests it will make available “certain intellectual property licenses” to its protocol technology on so-called reasonable and non-discriminatory terms: in particular, copyrights in the specifications, the trade secrets described by the specifications and inventions embodied in the protocols that are subject to patents or patent applications.
The licenses will provide for “reasonable” royalty payments to Microsoft: the type and amount of royalties to be charged for the use of Microsoft's copyrights, trade secrets and patents will be based upon the value and use for each task. “Royalties for the print and file server task will be based upon a percentage of licensee's net revenue from units of the licensee's products that incorporate Microsoft's protocols and are distributed by the licensee, and royalties for the user and group administration task will be on a per user basis, with a minimum and maximum range per licensed server product.”
|06/2004||Microsoft appeals to the EU Court of First Instance (“Court”) to suspend penalties imposed by the 2004 Decision (“the case for interim measure”) and to annul the 2004 Decision (“the merit case”).|
|06/2004||FSFE applies to be admitted to the proceedings as intervener.|
|27/07/2004||FSFE is granted leave to intervene in the case for interim measure.|
|30/09/2004||FSFE appears at the hearing before the EU Court of First Instance as third party and Samba representative. FSFE supports Samba in their previously stated claims saying that they need to know the communication standards (protocols) used by Microsoft Windows systems to implement their network services in order to allow non-Windows computer systems to interoperate with Microsoft Windows systems.|
|12/2004||Decision of the EU court of First Instance for the case for interim measure: Microsoft's application for suspension of the imposed penalties is dismissed. Microsoft should comply with the 2004 Decision, which is given immediate effect.|
|10/11/2005||The EC considers that the technical documentation prepared by Microsoft is “neither accurate nor complete”. The remuneration rates charged for granting access to and authorising the use of the interoperability information were found “unreasonable”. The EC imposed a periodic penalty payment (EUR 2 million per day).|
|23/11/2005||FSFE's application for leave to intervene in the merit case is upheld and FSFE is granted leave to intervene in the merit case.|
|25/01/2006||Microsoft offers to publish and license source code. |
FSFE and the Samba Team take the view that the offer of Microsoft to license for reference purposes only the source code of part of the Windows operating system is grossly inadequate to fulfill its obligations arising from the 2004 Decision.
|12/07/2006||The EC increases the periodic penalty payment to EUR 3 million per day.|
|17/09/2007||Microsoft loses its appeal against the merit case. The EUR 497 million fine is upheld, as are the requirements regarding server interoperability information and bundling of Windows Media Player. However, the Court rejects the Commission ruling that an independent monitoring trustee should have unlimited access to internal company organization in the future.|
|10/2007||Microsoft announces its compliance with the Court decision: it will publish protocols and will demand 0.4% of the revenue in patent-licensing royalties, only from commercial vendors of interoperable software, and promises not to seek patent royalties from individual open source developers. The interoperability information alone is available for a one-time fee of EUR 10,000.|
|10/2007||The EC holds that Microsoft complied with the obligations under the 2004 Decision.|
|12/2007||The Protocol Freedom Information Foundation (“PFIF”) is formed and becomes licensee of the no-patent license to the interoperability information, after further negotiation with Microsoft that removes the remaining GPL incompatibilities. The Samba Team becomes a “contractor” of the PFIF and access all the documentation.|
|27/02/2008||The EC fines Microsoft an additional EUR 899 million fine for non-compliance with the 2004 Decision (namely, the obligation to authorise the use of the interoperability information on “reasonable and non-discriminatory” terms).|
|09/05/2008||Microsoft appeals to the Court seeking to overturn the EUR 899 million fine.|
|16/08/2008||FSFE and Samba Team seek leave to intervene as third parties. |
Inter alia, the Software & Information Industry Association, ECIS, IBM Corp, Red Hat Inc, Oracle Corporation seek leave to intervene in support of the Commission, the Computing Technology Industry Association, the Association for Competitive Technology – in support of Microsoft.
|20/11/2008||All of the applications to intervene have been granted.|
|24/05/2011||Oral hearing at the Court on Microsoft's appeal.|