Microsoft does not want ValueLicensing CEO anywhere near its confidentiality ring

Perpetual license case perpetually rumbles on

Documents from Microsoft's £270 million ($331 million) legal spat with Brit reseller ValueLicensing have revealed squabbling behind the scenes over what can be disclosed and who should be in the circle of trust.

As a reminder, the case revolves around allegations by ValueLicensing (VL) that Microsoft added some clauses into its contracts to stop customers from selling on surplus perpetual licenses for Microsoft products. Companies such as VL sold on these licenses until what it describes as "anticompetitive contract clauses" showed up in 2016, allegedly replete with enticing discounts for switching to a subscription model.

In relation to the license restrictions in question, Microsoft told The Reg back in April 2022, "We have eliminated the restriction but continue to offer the discount on cloud subscriptions." VL, however, reckons that the result of Microsoft's actions are higher prices.

During a Case Management Conference held by the Competition Appeal Tribunal yesterday, both sides gave an account of issues that need to be resolved before the case could go to trial.

One of these issues concerns the confidentiality ring – a group of people permitted to view confidential information. According to skeleton arguments seen by The Register, ValueLicensing (VL) wants its CEO, Jonathan Horley, included along with a pair of its employees, and Microsoft most certainly does not.

The two sides aren't so far apart on the matter. Both agree that a ring is required since all manner of confidential documentation will be used during proceedings. However, while VL has attempted to get Horley included – even in an "outer" ring – Microsoft retorted that "Mr Horley is a key individual in the running of VL's business and therefore 'precisely the kind of person in respect of whom the concerns arise that justify a confidentiality ring in the first place'."

An interesting take. VL questioned if Microsoft might be suggesting that it regards the company as a competitor. And so the arguing has continued.

Other items worthy of note in the skeleton arguments include revisiting Microsoft's desire for a split trial and the timetable for disclosure. Microsoft would like to get cracking with the latter, while VL appears to favor a more thoughtful and investigative approach regarding what needs to be disclosed.

ValueLicensing is asking for £270 million ($331 million) for the profits it claims it lost as a consequence of Microsoft's actions.

For its part, Microsoft has attempted to have the case fundamentally changed. In July last year, the company attempted to have its UK arm removed from the claim as well as to shift the hearing to Ireland. The request was rejected, as was its appeal on the matter. ®

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