Microsoft denies blackmail accusations

Allegations that Bill Gates threatened to pull 800 jobs out of Denmark have been rejected

Microsoft has denied threatening to take jobs away from Denmark unless the Danish government supported the software patent directive.

Danish financial newspaper Børsen reported on Tuesday that Microsoft chairman Bill Gates told the Danish Prime Minister he would move all 800 jobs at Navision, a Danish company acquired by Microsoft in 2002, to the States unless the EU adopted the Computer Implemented Inventions Directive (CIID).

But Klaus Holse Andersen, the European vice-president of Microsoft Business Solutions, denied on Tuesday that the jobs at Navision were ever at risk.

"No, that is not what he said in the meeting," Andersen told ZDNet UK. "There is no plan for us to close down the site."

He said the issue of patents had been discussed at the meeting, but this was not related to the jobs at Navision, which is based at Vedbaek in Denmark.

"There has been a general discussion on patents and this has gone on in many offices," said Andersen. "We are very much pro the patent law. How they Børsen made they connection to the Vedbaek site I'm not sure."

Following the Børsen report the Social Democrats, the main opposition party in Denmark, issued a press release entitled "Blackmail shall not dictate Danish IT policy", in which it said corporations have no right to dictate Danish policy.

Andersen said Microsoft has had discussions with the Social Democrats about this press release.

"I've just called the Social Democrats," said Andersen "It's unfortunate that they put out the press release before they spoke to Microsoft."

PROSA, a Danish union for computer professionals, has also criticised Microsoft over Børsen's allegations.

Microsoft is not the only large company that stands accused of trying to influence the debate about the directive. Last month, Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza reported that the Polish subsidiaries of Siemens, Nokia, Philips, Ericsson and Alcatel sent a letter to Poland's prime minister, outlining their concerns about the directive. The letter implied that the respective companies may reconsider making investments in Poland if the Polish government continued its resistance to the directive, according to a translation of the article provided by anti-patent campaigner Florian Mueller.

The Polish government has since said that it will no longer stop the EU Council from ratifying the directive, although it will support any country's request for the directive to be delayed or revised.

Siemens, Nokia, Philips, Ericsson and Alcatel were all unable to respond in time for this article.

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