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EU Parliament Member Wants to Ban Microsoft Bids

Despite Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) successful campaign to achieve standards recognition for its Office Open XML (OOXML) file formats by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), opponents and critics of both OOXML and Microsoft show no signs of letting up in their attacks on the company.

Indeed, Microsoft's previous legal troubles with the European Commission (EC), which it has actively striven to remedy over the past six months, may come back and bite the company yet again – this time in the form of a potential five-year ban on selling its products to European Union (EU) governments.

This week, Heidi Rühle, a member of Germany's Green Party who serves in the European Union's (EU) Parliament -- the EU's legislative branch -- filed a "question" with the EC in that regard. By doing so, she is officially asking the EC to determine whether the EU's Court of First Instance's (CFI) finding in September that Microsoft had, in fact, abused its monopoly power should cause a legally prescribed procurement ban to kick in.

If that should occur, Microsoft could be effectively frozen out of billions of Euros of government business for a maximum of up to five years based on its previous behavior, according to an article by German technology publisher Heise Online News.

"Pursuant to … the [EU's] Financial Regulation, … candidates or tenderers shall be excluded from participation in procurement procedures if they have been convicted of an offence concerning their professional conduct [or] they have been [found] guilty of grave professional misconduct …. If it is the case, could we therefore consider that Microsoft does not fulfill the conditions to participate in such public procurement procedure?" read an English translation of Rühle's question posted on her Web site.

The EC has not yet responded, according to the Heise article, but it has six weeks to answer her question. It is unclear whether the CFI's ruling against Microsoft in September rises to the level of wrongdoing that meets the criteria described in the law.

Microsoft's ball and chain

One analyst said that even though Microsoft has been trying to put its past behind it ever since last summer's ruling, the shear tenacity of its opponents pretty much guarantees that the company will be dragging around this ball and chain for sometime to come.

"Microsoft has shown itself to be vulnerable, so people can get to them politically," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at researcher Enderle Group. The irony in this case, he said, is that the apparent intent is to continue to punish the company for behaviors that the EC agrees Microsoft has already stopped and, in fact, paid the two highest fines in EU history to settle.

"That's like delaying the punishment until after the person is no longer behaving badly," Enderle added. Still, be prepared for more of the same he cautioned. "This appears to be a successful way to attack the company, so I think we're going to be stuck with [these kinds of attacks]," Enderle added.

In the meantime, the EC continues to investigate Microsoft for activities related to pressure tactics it is alleged to have used to push OOXML through the ISO standardization process.

Microsoft officials had no immediate comment regarding Rühle's move.

Ironically, the latest shot across Microsoft's bow comes during the same week the software giant and sponsor Ecma International, officially turned control of the OOXML file formats over to ISO.