Microsoft next week plans to file its official appeal to the European Commission's decision in March that it broke European competition law.

At the close of a five-year investigation into Microsoft's business practices in the Europe Union, the Commission fined the vendor a record 497 euros and restricted its business practices in the region.

Microsoft at the time said it would challenge the ruling. The company intends to file its appeal brief with the European Court of First Instance in Luxembourg next week, Microsoft spokesperson Jim Desler says. "We look forward to filing our appeal and believe we have a very strong case to present to the court," he says.

Microsoft is only filing its appeal. A request to stay the measures imposed by the Commission will be made separatly from the appeal and will be filed with the Court of First Instance later this month, Desler says.

The Commission concluded that Microsoft broke EU competition law by using its near monopoly in the PC operating system market to gain advantage in the markets for work group server operating systems and media players.

Aside from the fine, the Commission also ordered Microsoft to offer a version of Windows without the Windows Media Player and to disclose details of the software interfaces its products use to communicate with Windows.

An appeal to the European Court of First Instance will take at least three years to conclude. In the meantime, the Court may turn down Microsoft's upcoming request to suspend the remedies until after the appeal, forcing the company to change the way it does business in Europe almost immediately.

Microsoft has expressed disappointment with the EU ruling. The company tried to settle the matter at the eleventh hour, but was unsuccessful. EU Competition Commissioner Mario Monti has said the ruling is about protecting customer choice and innovation. Microsoft has said the ruling stifles innovation.