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Microsoft to seek stay of EU ruling

If request for emergency deferment is denied, software giant must untether media player and reveal proprietary data.

Microsoft plans to ask a European court in the next few days for an emergency order blocking a ruling imposed in March that levied a heavy fine and required that Windows be offered without a media player.

The Redmond, Wash.-based software maker already has filed a 100-page appeal before the Court of First Instance asking it to annul the European Commission's $604 million fine and media player requirement.

Microsoft spokesman Jim Desler said Thursday that the forthcoming request, which was anticipated, will ask for a stay of the decision while the appeal is in progress. "By the end of this week or early next week, we will file a formal application seeking a suspension of the European Commission's decision and remedies," he said.

The Court of First Instance, Europe's second-highest judicial body, is expected to hold a hearing on Microsoft's request for a stay within the next two months.

If the stay is not granted, some of the European Commission's deadlines will begin to take effect. The Commission's March 24 decision gave Microsoft 90 days to offer an operating system without the media player bundled in and 120 days to begin sharing proprietary information with its competitors regarding its servers.

Frank Fine, an antitrust attorney for law firm DLA in Brussels, Belgium, said earlier this month that Microsoft faces a challenge in winning a stay, given recent decisions by Europe's highest court. "It won't be easy for Microsoft to get a suspension," he said. "It will have the burden of proving it will face irreparable harm if these interim measures take hold. I doubt Microsoft will go out of business if it has to abide by these measures."

In addition, a key Microsoft adversary has announced plans to weigh in before the Court of First Instance.

Ed Black, president of the Computer and Communications Industry Association, said that his group has filed papers to intervene in the case. If CCIA's request is granted, it would be able to use the opportunity to argue against Microsoft's request to throw out the European Commission's ruling.

"We do have a lot of insight and expertise, economically and technologically," Black said. "We have a lot of background in this area going back 10 years."

CCIA members include Microsoft rivals Sun Microsystems, Yahoo, Red Hat and Oracle. The group applauded the European Commission's penalties levied against Microsoft in March. In the U.S. antitrust case, CCIA unsuccessfully argued for a breakup of Microsoft.

CNET's Dawn Kawamoto contributed to this report