Report: Microsoft Workshop and Conference at Institute

Posted on Thursday 22nd May 2008

In the aftermath of the landmark EC Microsoft case Birmingham's Institute of European Law hosted two events examining the legal ramifications of the decision.

In the afternoon of 14th March 2008, a research workshop on the EC Microsoft case took place at Birmingham Law School. The speakers and the participants, from various European academic institutions, focused on the theme: 'Innovation, competition, and consumer welfare in the IT sector.'

Photo of the Speakers at the Microsoft Workshop (L-R: Ms Ann Walsh, Dr Maria Gil-Molto, Dr Luca Rubini, and Mr Michele Nascimbene) 

(L-R: Ms Ann Walsh, Dr Maria Gil-Molto, Dr Luca Rubini, and Mr Michele Nascimbene)

The workshop started with presentations of the case and the previous law given by Dr Luca Rubini, Birmingham Law School, and complemented by comments by Mr Michele Nascimbene, Cleary Gottlieb Steel and Hamilton (and previously Sullivan and Cromwell) (who spoke on a personal basis). These soon sparked a heated debate, further fed by the papers of Dr Maria Gil-Molto, Leicester Economics Department, that introduced the findings of economic literature on the interoperability and bundling aspects of the case, and Ms Ann Walsh, PhD student at Birmingham Law School, that commented on the software and IP protection sides.

After four hours of discussion, which soon extended its scope from the technical and more specific aspects of the case to analyse the broader issues of the role of IP, competition law and standards in the software sector, the efficiency of enforcement and remedies, the debate was adjourned to the May conference on the Microsoft case.

Photo of the speakers at the conference with Professor Anthony Arnull 

(The speakers with Professor Arnull)

On Friday 16th May 2008, the IEL hosted a conference on 'The Microsoft Case: The IT industry and the Future of EC Competition Law'. The Head of School, Professor Anthony Arnull, opened the proceedings where a distinguished panel of speakers, chaired by Dr Luca Rubini, engaged the audience with a multifaceted analysis of the case and thoughtful remarks on its implications.

 The presentation of Mr Nicholas Banasevic (pictured, right) Deputy Head of Unit at DG Competition, European Commission, and involved in the drafting of the 2004 Commission decision (and speaking on a personal level) and in the monitoring of its implementation, presented the state of the law after the CFI's decision on the two main findings on the Microsoft's duty of supply interoperability information with its Windows PC OS and the prohibition to bundle the latter with Media Player. He concluded his presentation by underlining what the case is about and what is not about.

The following presentations concentrated on the law and economics of the said two sides of the case. Mr Mark Powell, partner at the White and Case Brussels office, and involved in the case on the Microsoft side, and Professor Steven Anderman, University of Essex Law School, a renowned authority in the field of IP/competition law, embarked on the analysis of the interoperability issue. After that, James Flynn QC, Brick Court Chambers, London and Brussels, and advisor of two trade association that supported the Commission case, offered a balanced review of the case, particularly of the bundling point. The series of presentations was closed by an intriguing address of Mr Derek Ridyard, economic consultant at RBB Economics, London, that analysed the economics of tying/bundling and offered a fresh insight on the subject.

The papers were followed by a lively and interesting debate between the panel members triggered by questions from the diverse and attentive audience which included practitioners, academics, and postgraduate students and researchers, from law, political science and computer science.

Building upon this 'Microsoft' initiative, Dr Rubini is currently editing a book, entitled Microsoft on Trial: Legal and Economic Analysis of a Transatlantic Antitrust Case, that will be published in the 'New horizons in Competition law and Economics' series (Edward Elgar) directed by Professor Rudolph Peritz (New York Law School) and Professor Anderman (Essex University Law School). The book is expected to be on the market in 2009