Microsoft Appeases EU, Loses in Korea

Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes it’s a wash.

That might be the sentiment in Redmond right now: Microsoft, for once, has managed not to run afoul of European antitrust regulators by handing heaps of documenation on Windows technologies and protocols in advance of a November 23 deadline. The European Commission fined Microsoft over $350 million in July for failing to provide “complete and accurate” documentation of key Windows technologies which would let third parties interoperate successfully with Windows services. The new documentation turned in by Microsoft totals some 8,500 pages, and will now be reviewed by the EC’s trustee and third parties—including Sun, Novell, and IBM—for accuracy.

The original EC deadline for the Windows documentation was July of 2004; as recently as last week, it again threatened Microsoft with fines as large as €3 million a day for failing to comply with the antitrust ruling. Microsoft, for its part, says it has been trying to comply with EC requirements, but the commission kept “moving the goalposts” and changing its demands. But the company is putting a positive face on the new submission, noting in a statement: “The submission of technical documentation in July, and the revision process since then, has been an unprecedented undertaking involving over 300 engineers and technical writers at Microsoft. The Trustee’s team of 7 technical experts has worked tirelessly over the past four months to give us feedback on the enormous volume of technical documentation that we submitted in July, and we have incorporated their input into the documents.”

The review process for the documentation should be completed in the first half of 2007; in the meantime, Microsoft is appealing EC fines against it to the European Court of First Instance.

In the meantime, Microsoft has lost a patent-infringement battle in South Korea involving switching input modes between English and Korean in its Microsoft Office productivity software. South Korea’s Lee Keung-Haw of Hankuk Aviation University obtained patents on technology which automatically switches input modes between Korean and English; in 2000, Lee and his agent (P and IB) filed a patent infringement suit against Microsoft over similar technology in Microsoft Office. Microsoft argued Lee’s patent was invalid, but last week South Korea’s Supreme Court rejected Microsoft’s request to nullify the patents. The case now returns to lower courts, where. However, Microsoft is not giving up the fight to prove Lee’s patents invalid, and has filed another suit claiming new evidence f prior art.

Lee is seeking an injunction and 70 billion won (about $75 million) in damages.

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