An in-depth investigation has been launched by the European Commission into the proposed purchase of anti-piracy software firm ContentGuard by Microsoft and Time Warner.

The US giants together bought the majority of Xerox's share of ContentGuard in April this year [WAMN: 07-Apr-04], leaving the reprographics group with a small equity stake.

EC antitrust regulators have raised concerns that the deal might lead to a Microsoft monopoly in anti-piracy technology and will determine its likely effect on other areas of the software titan's domain, explaining that it "may have spill-over effects on a number of related markets ranging from mobile telephony to word processors."

Microsoft is still reeling from an earlier EC ruling of anti-competitive behaviour, and is vehemently fighting the associated €497 million ($601m; £334m) fine. But, conceded company spokesman Dirk Delmartino, "We understand that this is a complex area."

The Commission's decision is expected by January 5 next year.

Data sourced from: BBC Online Business News (UK); additional content by WARC staff