Bargaining in the Shadow of the European Microsoft Decision: The Microsoft-Samba Protocol License

Interoperability and Competition Policy and Antitrust

Article Snapshot


Seldon J. Childers and William H. Page


Northwestern University Law Review Colloquy, Vol. 102, No. p. 332, 2008


This paper looks at Microsoft’s negotiations with a rival in Europe after the antitrust case.

Policy Relevance

Europe's requirement that Microsoft reveal key information to a competitor has empowered a promising open source rival, Samba. But if the disclosure goes too far, the leading firm might be discouraged from innovating.

Main Points

  • In 2007, European courts agreed with the European Commission that Microsoft acted illegally in not sharing information about workgroup servers with Sun Microsystems.

  • Microsoft was ordered to reveal how its server software provided file, print, and administration services to Windows networks, to help rivals build competing server software (“protocol licensing”).
  • In December of 2007, Microsoft licensed key server protocols to Samba, an open source project that emulates Microsoft’s server operating system. So far, this is the most important outcome of the European Microsoft case.
  • The Samba agreement gives key information to Microsoft’s most likely effective rival. Microsoft might also derive benefits from documenting its own protocols better.
  • The disclosures could let Samba clone Microsoft products, harming competition over time by making leading firms hesitate to innovate.

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