"The significance of this ruling for the [European] commission is that we have been reinforced and confirmed in our approach in putting consumers before innovation and research and we have been supported in our interpretation of competition policy," Neelie Kroes, EU competition commissioner, told reporters yesterday.
Brussels is now expected to step up its cases against three other US technology groups - Intel, the dominant microprocessor manufacturer, and fellow chip-makers Rambus and Qualcomm. In July she accused Intel of granting illegal rebates, notably in Japan, to capture customers tempted to buy products from smaller rival Advanced Micro Devices, which claims that Intel has won monopoly profits of $60bn over 10 years.
Rambus stands accused of illegally obtaining patents on an industry standard for memory chips and of not properly disclosing these patents when demanding royalty payments from its rivals. Qualcomm, the second-largest maker of chips for mobile phones, faces complaints from Nokia, Ericsson and others that it overcharges for patent royalties for third-generation phones. The EU has yet to open a formal investigation.