Interview with Carlo Piana

The lawyer for Samba and the Free Software Foundation Europe explains the behind-the-scenes work behind last month's antitrust decision against Microsoft

The European Union's 899-million-euro antitrust fine is the result of a continuous effort by the European Commission dating back to 2000. Carlo Piana, a partner at the Milan law firm Studio Legale Tamos Piana & Partners, represented the Free Software Foundation Europe and the Samba project in the case.

Can you introduce your work in this case to our readers? When and why did you join?

I joined in June 2004, when Microsoft's appeal against the EC decision was filed and the news spread. This story has actually been told many times and reported by the international press. I just offered an initial help with the filing of a simple "application for leave to intervene", which is a short document by which you ask permission to join the case as you have a direct interest in the outcome of the case. The understanding was that other lawyers would have kicked in later.

As it turned out, however, that expectation was largely unfounded, as I was sucked up in the turmoil of the first part of the case, which was about the suspension of the remedies provided by the Decision. That part is called "interim measures". It was done over the summer holidays of 2004 and ended in a two-day hearing in Luxembourg. It was so frantic that I could hardly take a breath. It involved getting up to gear with the substance of the case, with the pleading of the two main parties (Commission and Microsoft) and of a dozen of other interveners, with technical issues and a helluva lot of documentation. Needless to say that I did not take any holiday that year.

Basically my work is that of a counsel in the proceedings, that of filing briefs and pleading, preparing the evidence, appearing in court an plead. But beyond that, putting together a team of great individualities and transforming their invaluable technical and somewhat legal contribution into one solid and as legally neat as possible defence was also quite a demanding task. Moreover, it is no mystery that a lot of coordination work had to be done with the other friendly interveners and to some extent also with the Commission.

This, of course, for all the branches of the case that sprouted along the way. It was indeed a long and complex activity.

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