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Microsoft Faces Crucial EU Court Ruling

Software giant Microsoft faces another crucial court ruling in its long-running legal battle with the European Commission on Wednesday.

The Luxembourg-based Court of First Instance - the EU's second highest court - will decide whether Microsoft must accept sanctions handed down by Brussels for breaking EU competition laws or whether it should wait whilst its appeal is heard. In March this year, then Competition Commissioner Mario Monti decided that Microsoft was abusing its dominant position in the market and ordered the company to pay a record €497 million ($664 million) fine and change some of its key business practices. Microsoft promptly appealed and the president of the Court of First Instance must now decide whether the sanctions should be imposed immediately or at the end of the appeal process, which could last four to five years. The US company must persuade the Court's President Bo Vesterdorf that it can win its appeal and that it would be irreparably damaged unless the sanctions are suspended. Either side can appeal to the EU's highest court, the European Court of Justice (ECJ), according to media reports. The case has changed considerably since March: Firstly, Microsoft has negotiated private settlements with four out of five competitors which supported the Commission, leaving only RealNetworks still battling the case. Secondly, there is a new Competition Commissioner, Neelie Kroes. She has given no clear sign of her views on the Microsoft case, but has promised to be "no pussycat" in competition cases. Microsoft wants to re-open negotiations with Brussels on the case, rather than wait for the final appeal ruling. (EUobserver.com)

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