IBM, Nokia and Oracle take on Microsoft in €497m fight

'You shall go to the ball - or in this case, antitrust court hearings'

'You shall go to the ball - or in this case, antitrust court hearings'

An association of industry heavyweights has been given the all-clear to join in fighting Microsoft's attempt to reverse its antitrust conviction.

The grouping which includes IBM, Nokia, Oracle, RealNetworks and Red Hat and goes by the name ECIS - the European Committee for Interoperable Systems - has received approval from the European Court of First Instance to assist to the EC as it battles to keep Microsoft from overturning the landmark ruling against its monopolist practices.

After the coalition had initially offered the EC technical and legal support to keep Microsoft from successfully appealing the ruling, which saw it fined a record €497m, it was feared the group had missed a vital court date for filing its submissions which could have seen it excluded from the legal process.

Thomas Vinje, lawyer for ECIS, said: "We are happy that the Court has concluded that our involvement in the proceedings will be useful and appropriate and that we will seek to support the Commission's decision with legal, technical and economic input that we expect will be helpful to the Court in reaching its conclusions in this case. In this regard we believe it is important that ECIS's membership is drawn from a broad cross-section of the information and communications technology sector including software developers, companies active in OSS communities and hardware providers from both the telecommunications and information technology sectors."

The long-running battle over Microsoft's monopoly conviction has seen numerous high-profile anti-Microsoft campaigners drop out of the running, including Sun, Novell and industry association the CCIA, all of whom withdrew their support for the EC charges after Microsoft made multimillion dollar settlements with them.

A Microsoft spokeswoman declined to comment on the news but said Microsoft was "working quickly and diligently to resolve outstanding issues" regarding the antitrust case.