MS ANTITRUST : Court to rule on stay of E.U. sanctions

A decision on whether to suspend the European Commission’s anticompetition sanctions against Microsoft Corp. pending appeal is expected to come in the first half of next week, according to a source close to the company.

While Microsoft wants to win the suspension, the decision and the legal findings supporting it are seen more as an opportunity to approach the Commission for further negotiations on the case.

“Microsoft is hopeful that the court order will provide an opening for further discussion on how to address the Commission’s concerns,” Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft’s general counsel for Europe, said in a statement Friday.

The European Court of First Instance (CFI), in Luxembourg, is expected to release its decision on the request for suspension Tuesday or Wednesday, the source said. CFI President Bo Vesterdorf is considering whether to delay two sanctions imposed on the software maker when the Commission ruled last March that Microsoft abused its dominance in the desktop software market to gain advantages in related markets, such as media players.

Microsoft was ordered to release a version of its Windows operating system in Europe without its Windows Media Player (WMP), and reveal enough server software code to allow rivals to build competing products that work well with Windows. It also levied a fine of