I've been looking for sources for reports on the EU antitrust trial, so we don't have to depend solely on media accounts, helpful though they are. Here's the Washington Post's coverage, with a picture of Microsoft's General Counsel, Brad Smith. The BBC also reports the judge who will write the decision, Court of First Instance Judge John Cooke, reportedly asked why Microsoft should have to give up its "commercial information." The BBC quotes him as saying, "The information which forms interoperability is hugely valuable commercial information."
Um. Yes. But without interoperability information, EU Commission lawyer Anthony Whelan answered, "the 'super-dominant' position enjoyed by Microsoft prevents its rivals from innovating." I know Microsoft wouldn't wish to put a damper on innovation, that being so close to their hearts.
While the BBC reports on what Samba's Andrew Tridgell said at the hearing, "we are ten years behind," one phrase isn't enough for me to understand the issue, so to supplement, I found some press releases and other information from those attending the hearings that go into greater detail.
Samba and the Free Software Foundation Europe have put out a joint press release and the FSFE has a couple of others regarding the EU v. Microsoft hearings that I thought you'd be interested in reading:
If you only have time to read one of them, please choose the one about software patents. I reproduce them all for you, so they are all in one place, and I think it gives us a flavor for what's been happening. For even more, here's Georg Greve's blog, and he explains what he understood Microsoft's lawyer to be saying about software patents:
As Mr Forrester went on to explain, this documentation was then put into a kind of digital encyclopedia, which is sorted by a method that Microsoft holds a software patent on in both the European Union and the United States (from memory: us patent no 5,968,211). Without a software patent license, the documentation of their protocols cannot be used -- because Microsoft will sue anyone who dares to do so without license.
Software patents indeed played a central role in the closing remarks. Apparently it is Microsofts proof of innovation in this field to hold 4 granted and 3 applications for software patents in the EU, as well as 27 granted and 12 filed elsewhere. He also made another thing plainly clear: "I doubt that each of these could be engineered around!"
Translation: You may be able to force us to document what we do, but we will make sure you cannot read it without being potentially liable to software patent infringement. And even if you figure out how it works, we may try sueing you for software patent infringement in case you dare to interoperate with us without our permission.
For the other side of the coin, Microsoft has a section just for this issue, including excerpts from its opening statement at the hearing. Here are their archives. And finally, here's the page where they explain how servers work and how interoperability is "a reality".
Except when they have patents they assert or they want the EU Commission to stop making them enable interoperability.
Samba and FSFE: "Microsoft - obstacle to innovation in the digital society!"
Thu Apr 27 10:58:03 CEST 2006
"Businesses and public authorities have to pay prices that are kept high
by Microsoft's refusal to share interoperability information with its
competitors, as is common practice in the industry," explains Andrew
Tridgell, president and founder of the Samba Team in his presentation on
behalf of Free Software Foundation Europe in European Court today.
Yesterday, Microsoft stated that it had spent 35 thousand person-hours
on documenting that kind of information - and essentially failed.
Tridgell continues "Microsoft keeps claiming that it was asked to show
its source code to competitors, which is absurd. We are exclusively
interested in industry-standard interoperability information, such as
Interface Definition Language (IDL) files commonly used for these kind
of protocols. By our reverse-engineering, we were able to conclude that
the total Active Directory description would amount to roughly 30.000
lines, of which the admittedly best experts of the Samba Team were able
to reverse-engineer 13.000 over the course of six years. These IDL files
easily fit on a single floppy disk and would go a long way towards
providing the interoperability information requested."
"If Microsoft had shared that information when the Commission first
requested it, customers could already find small embedded devices in
stores for around 100 EUR that could offer the Active Directory
functionality implemented in Samba - Microsoft's implementation of these
protocols has hardware requirements ten times bigger. Think of a small
box the size of a router, compared to an entire PC," Carlo Piana, FSFE'S
lawyer on the case continues.
"The prevention of competition by Microsoft to leverage their desktop
monopoly into other areas imposes a stark price on all professional
computer users. Are we really to believe that Microsoft has no idea what
is running on 90% of the computers around this planet so they have to
call in their retired engineers to explain to them the working of
Windows XP?" Georg Greve, president of FSFE summarises. "Enough is
enough. Microsoft should stop playing games with the Commission and the
Court and leave the field of innovation of obstacles to competition and
freedom of choice!"
Microsoft: "Our software patents preclude interoperability"
Thu Apr 27 20:49:11 CEST 2006
Throughout the last two days in European Court, Microsoft tried to
explain to the European Court and Commission its "Blue Bubble Theorem"
about Active Directory Services (ADS) being surrounded by a Blue
Bubble within which interoperability was impossible.
Carlo Piana, Free Software Foundation Europe's lawyer on the case
explains: "The interventions made perfectly clear that the Blue Bubble
only existed in the lawyers' pleadings. Meanwhile, Microsoft left no
doubt as to the legal nature of that Bubble: a conglomerate of 46
patents that it claims it holds on ADS, whose main effect is to
prevent interoperability and, eventually, competition."
So Microsoft maintains that without licenses to these software
patents, which they would strongly object to and essentially referred
to as "expropriation", forcing the interoperability information to be
released might turn out to be irrelevant: Future competitors might
find themselves involved in costly software patent litigation rather
"This proves effectively how software patents are fundamentally
opposed to competiton, and thus harm economy and society. In the
European fight about software patents, the proponents tried to make
the claim software patents were about innovation. Today Microsoft once
more demonstrated how they are indeed helping build and maintain
illegal monopolies", Georg Greve, president of Free Software
Foundation Europe (FSFE) said today and continued: "It reminded me of
a 1991 quote of Bill Gates that summarises software patents rather
'If people had understood how patents would be granted when
most of today's ideas were invented and had taken out patents,
the industry would be at a complete stand-still today. The
solution ... is patent exchanges ... and patenting as much as
we can... A future start-up with no patents of its own will be
forced to pay whatever price the giants choose to impose. That
price might be high: Established companies have an interest in
excluding future competitors.'"
FSFE referred to that quote in a feature article  earlier this
week. Greve concludes: "Software patents are limited mini-monopolies
on ideas that should allow to share ideas for the inspiration and
benefit for society. In software they have the opposite effect and
FSFE: "Microsoft locks in customers and pushes software patents to prevent
Fri Apr 21 12:37:08 CEST 2006
"Microsoft's software locks in users and now the company is lobbying to get
this lock-in effect legalised by software patents" is the basic message of a
feature article Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) has published on its
website  today.
The article - written by FSFE's vice president Jonas Öberg and FSFE's lawyer
Carlo Piana explains: "Any Business - regardless whether it is a small
startup, a global car manufacturer or a public authority - regularly runs a
net consisting of GNU/Linux-, Unix- and Apple-based machines on the one hand
and Windows on the other. Communication works fine within these two worlds.
But not in between. There, co-operation lacks - not due to a law of nature
but Microsoft does not want Windows to be understood by other operating
The European Commission at present is trying to force the software giant to
publish interoperability information that allows seamless communication
between these two worlds. FSFE supports the Commission as third party since
the original investigation in 2001. Monday, April 24th a five-day trial - the
longest in European history - starts in Luxembourg.
The outcome of this suit will be seminal for the future information society:
"Developers have been struggling to use reverse-engineering to replicate the
behaviour of a Windows server, but this is a very cumbersome method and it
has its limits: Without proper documentation of the protocols and
specifications, any competitor will always lag behind the company that can
introduce arbitrary changes of the interface language, as Microsoft has been
doing," FSFE president Georg Greve explains. "Software patents could add a
whole new dimension to this problem: Not only would any competitor find
themselves in an extremely disadvantaged position in trying to compete with
the monopoly. If patents are granted on these interfaces, implementing
interoperability constitutes potential software patent infringement.
Competition itself could de-facto become illegal."
So while Microsoft is still fighting to not publish specifications and
protocols to enable equal grounds for competition, at the same time it
lobbies hard to establish a legal basis for the software patents it has filed
throughout the past years. Paradoxically, the same European Commission that
fights so hard to even the grounds for competition in European Court supports
this quest that threatens to make competition itself de-facto illegal.
The feature article points it out: "Even if the company is forced to publish
its secret software protocols or leave key features out of Windows, a
European software patent law might eventually let it stamp out competition
from Free Software. Though two previous attempts at enacting a European
software patent were defeated, Charlie McCreevy, Europe's commissioner for
Internal Markets and Services could well resurrect the project this year."
Translations of this feature article can be found in Spanish, French, Italian
and German early next week.
About the Free Software Foundation Europe
The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSF Europe) is a charitable
non-governmental organisation dedicated to all aspects of Free
Software in Europe. Access to software determines who may participate
in a digital society. Therefore the freedoms to use, copy, modify and
redistribute software - as described in the Free Software definition -
allow equal participation in the information age. Creating awareness
of these issues, securing Free Software politically and legally, and
giving people freedom by supporting development of Free Software are
central issues of the FSF Europe, which was founded in 2001 as the
European sister organisation of the Free Software Foundation in the