BRUSSELS – The judge considering Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) appeal against European Union (search) sanctions has called a closed meeting for Thursday to decide what action to take after two more major opponents of the U.S. software giant withdrew from the case.
Novell Inc. (NOVL) and the Computer and Communications Industry Association (search) (CCIA) removed themselves from the lawsuit after Microsoft, maker of the dominant Windows operating system, agreed to pay each of them substantial sums in settlements.
A source familiar with the case said Microsoft had paid about $20 million to the CCIA, of which about $10 million went to the association's president, Ed Black.
A Microsoft spokesman said the money was for CCIA as a whole and "it was of course up to the CCIA board to decide how to use the money it received from the company."
Microsoft said the CCIA payment was "a reimbursement for certain legal and related expenditures that it had incurred," and it had no idea of how the money would be allocated.
Vesterdorf called Thursday's meeting after two days of hearings on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 to consider suspending European Commission sanctions that would force Microsoft to sell a version of Windows without its Media Player audiovisual software.
He called the new meeting to consider the impact of the moves by Novell and CCIA, a second source familiar with the situation said.
The meeting will include not only the current parties to the case but also those who have dropped out, the second source said.
Vesterdorf wanted to know how to handle confidential and other documents offered by the parties that had dropped out of the case, the source said. He also wanted to know how to handle their views now.
A Microsoft spokesman said the company would not seek to have any earlier testimony, documents or arguments withdrawn by those who had dropped out of the case.
A Commission spokesman said he believed the change would make no difference.
"The fact that certain parties have withdrawn doesn't change the facts of the case at all," Jonathan Todd told the regular noon press briefing of the Commission in answer to a question.
Vesterdorf has no plans to issue a ruling during the meeting, the second source said.
A court official said the meeting would convene in Luxembourg, where the court is based.
After the Nov. 8 deal to pay Novell $536 million to end an antitrust suit, Microsoft said it had reached settlements with all but one of the organizations that complained to the EU regulator about its business practices.
The sole remaining company opposing Microsoft before the EU is RealNetworks, maker of rival audiovisual software Real Player.
A Commission spokeswoman insisted last week that Brussels would continue to defend its measures against Microsoft's appeal, despite the withdrawal of Novell and the CCIA.
The EU executive imposed a record 497.2-million-euro ($611.2 million) fine on Microsoft in March and ordered it to share more information about its programs with rivals.