European Union (EU) Judge Hubert Legal (insert humorous comment here), who is overseeing Microsoft's appeal of the EU antitrust decision, revealed this week that there's little chance that the two sides will settle. His comments come just 2 weeks after European Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes announced that she will take a "hard line" against Microsoft. Company officials have repeatedly expressed their hope that the two sides could reach an agreement and avoid a lengthy legal battle.
"There is no reason ... for a settlement," an EU spokesperson said recently, citing a December 2004 EU verdict that denied Microsoft's request that the EU's antitrust sanctions be suspended during its appeal. "It's now for the courts to decide," Kroes added.
With no settlement in sight, Microsoft's EU case, like the US antitrust case before it, appears to be headed to trial. The first hearings are tentatively set for late 2005, although Microsoft or EU officials could attempt to begin the hearings earlier by petitioning the court to bump the schedule into a fast-track format that's designed for special cases. Either way, the EU court will first need to decide which companies and organizations can submit written arguments and speak during the hearings. Judge Legal said this week that about 10 companies have made requests to be included, but he refused to name them.