European Court expected to rule on Microsoft appeal in September

Europe's second highest court could deliver its verdict on the long-running Microsoft antitrust case on the day before the retirement of the presiding judge. The verdict is expected on 17th September, according to news agency Reuters.

The date is that of the last working day before Bo Versterdorf retires. Versterdorf is President of the Court of First Instance and the presiding judge in the 13 judge Grand Chamber of that Court, which is deciding the Microsoft case.

The European Commission found Microsoft guilty of antitrust offences in 2004 and fined it €497 million. It said that Microsoft failed to allow small business server software makers the chance to compete, and unfairly included media software in its operating system, thus stifling competition in that market.

Microsoft appealed the ruling, and that appeal is heard by the Court of First Instance. It is the highest court that can make a finding of fact. If either side wants to appeal September's verdict to the European Court of Justice it will have to be on a point of law.

The ruling could come earlier than 17th September, but the Court breaks for over a month until the end of August.

The Commission has hit the company with further fines for non-compliance with its 2004 order. It fined Microsoft a further €281 million for non-compliance in 2006.

The Court of First Instance spent a week in April hearing Microsoft's appeal against the landmark Commission decision.

The Commission preceded that hearing by hinting that further action might be necessary against Microsoft. "In the 50 years of European antitrust policy, it's the first time we've been confronted with a company that has failed to comply with an antitrust decision," Commission spokesman on competition issues Jonathan Todd said in March.