RealNetworks in Landmark Antitrust Victory in European Court of First Instance Against Microsoft for Abuse of Dominant Position

September 18, 2007

On September 17, the European Court of First Instance rendered judgment in the long-awaited and controversial Microsoft case. Cleary Gottlieb represented RealNetworks, and was co-counsel to the European Committee on Interoperable Systems (ECIS) and the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA). The firm also advised a variety of clients in the United States and European Union interested in the implications of the case. The case involved two broad issues:

The Court upheld the European Commission’s finding of illegal tying of Windows Media Player to Windows, which the Commission had found excluded competition in streaming media players and contributed to the maintenance of Microsoft’s desktop software platform monopoly.

The Court also upheld the European Commission’s finding of illegal refusal to supply interoperability information that third-party server manufacturers needed to enable their workgroup servers to communicate fully with Microsoft Windows clients and server networks. This resulted in monopolization of server markets, and contributed further to monopoly maintenance of the desktop software platform monopoly.

European antitrust rules, like Section 2 of the U.S. Sherman Act, forbid companies from abusing their dominant position in an industry to the detriment of consumers and the structure of competition. The Microsoft ruling represents a landmark interpretation of that ban. The decision also supports the stance of EU regulator, which has been more inclined than the U.S. Department of Justice to find aggressive behavior by dominant companies as abusive. At the same time, the analysis in the judgment is close to the rule of reason analysis applied by the DC Court of Appeals in Microsoft II.