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Updated January 10th, 2024 at 12:16 IST

UK antitrust regulators probe Microsoft's ties with OpenAI

Commission disclosed that it is investigating certain agreements between major players in the digital market and providers of generative AI technologies.

Microsoft emerges as big winner from OpenAI turmoil with Altman on board
Sam Altman and Satya Nadella | Image:Sam Altman, Satya Nadella
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Microsoft’s investments in OpenAI: European Union antitrust regulators on Tuesday, indicated that Microsoft's financial involvement with OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, could fall within the purview of EU merger regulations. This announcement echoes a prior cautionary note issued by UK regulators in December concerning the same matter.

Despite Microsoft's commitment last year to invest in excess of $10 billion in OpenAI, along with securing a non-voting board position, the US technology giant maintains that it does not have any ownership stake in OpenAI.

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The European Commission, the regulatory arm responsible for enforcing competition rules within the EU, confirmed its ongoing scrutiny of the situation. In an official statement, the Commission stated, "We are evaluating whether Microsoft's financial involvement in OpenAI necessitates review under the EU Merger Regulation."

Responding to queries, a Microsoft spokesperson highlighted that the collaborative alliance established with OpenAI in 2019 has catalysed advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) innovation and competition. The spokesperson emphasised that the recent alteration involves Microsoft securing a non-voting observer status on OpenAI's board, maintaining the independence of both entities.

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Monitoring AI regulations

Furthermore, the Commission disclosed that it is investigating certain agreements between major players in the digital market and providers of generative AI technologies, although specific companies were not named in the announcement.

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In a parallel development, the Commission has solicited feedback from stakeholders until March 11 regarding competition dynamics within virtual environments and the realm of generative AI. Concurrently, inquiries for information have been dispatched to multiple prominent digital firms in these thematic areas.

Margrethe Vestager, the EU's chief of antitrust, underscored the Commission's proactive stance: "We are encouraging industry participants and experts to apprise us of any competitive concerns within these sectors. Moreover, we remain vigilant in monitoring AI collaborations to prevent any undue distortions in market dynamics."

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(With Reuters inputs)

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Published January 10th, 2024 at 12:16 IST

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