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Microsoft hired ex-EU judges for mock trial-source

Written by: Staff
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BRUSSELS, Mar 29 (Reuters) In a sign of how meticulously Microsoft is planning its antitrust battle against the European Commission next month, it hired three former EU judges to stage a mock trial, a source close to the situation said.

The software giant has appealed against a March 2004 ruling by a European court that it abused the dominance of its Windows operating system.

Microsoft was told to change the way it runs its business to make it easier for smaller rivals to compete.

The mock trial was held in January in New York and one of the judges was a former Belgian justice minister, Melchior Wathelet, who worked for the European Court of Justice (ECJ) -- Europe's highest court, the source said on Tuesday.

The names of the other former judges were not known.

In the 2004 ruling, the EU's number two court fined Microsoft half a billion euros and told it to provide rivals with protocols making it easier for them to build software that runs as smoothly on Windows as Microsoft's own server software.

Microsoft would not confirm or deny that it had hired the former judges.

''As is typical for an important case, we have our counsel present our case to a variety of different lawyers in private practice. We have found this helps ensure that the highly technical material is presented clearly,'' it said in a statement.

The Commission made no comment. The European courts also declined to comment.

The software giant is also facing a daily fine of up to 2 million euros for what the Commission says is Microsoft's foot-dragging over implementing the remedies dictated by the original court decision.

On Thursday and Friday it has a last chance to stop the Commission from levying the daily fines in a two-day closed hearing by independent arbitrators in Brussels.

REUTERS SD DS1637

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