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Justice Department Files Claims Against Software Giant Microsoft

By Jube Shiver Jr.
Los Angeles Times

Urging a federal judge not to dismiss its antitrust case against Microsoft Corp., the Justice Department filed new claims that the software giant used anticompetitive practices to throttle some of the biggest names in the computer business.

In an 89-page court filing that frequently singled out the conduct of Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, the Justice Department and 20 state attorneys general claimed Microsoft used illegal and predatory practices to choke off the market for an Internet Web browser developed by archrival Netscape Communications Corp.

The government also accused Microsoft of illegally trying to kill a competing software product called Java, which Microsoft believed could eclipse its own Windows product as the world's dominant personal computer operating system. That's because Java - unlike Windows - claims to run on many different types of computers.

The alleged campaigns against Netscape and Java form the heart of a government antitrust lawsuit that claims that Microsoft - whose software products run more than 90 percent of the world's personal computers - has "used its (market) power to intimidate both customers and distributors" to eliminate software rivals and even reign in computer hardware makers such as Intel Corp., Sun Microsystems Inc. and Apple Computer Co.

"Microsoft's conduct with respect to Java and browsers is part of a broad pattern of anticompetitive conduct designed to eliminate competition, to maintain and strengthen Microsoft's core monopoly over PC operating systems," the Justice Department said in its court filing.

The Justice Department documents, filed late Monday night and made public Tuesday, come nearly a month after Microsoft urged U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson to dismiss the Justice Department's antitrust lawsuit. Jackson, who indicated in court before Microsoft's Aug. 10 motion was filed that he believes the government's case has merit, is expected to hear additional argument on the Microsoft's request for summary judgment on Sept. 11.

Microsoft officials could not be reached for comment. A Justice Department lawyer as well as a spokeswoman for the agency declined comment.

In its request for summary judgment, Microsoft asserted that the Justice Department failed to present sufficient evidence to prove the government's claim that the software maker entered agreements with computer makers and Internet service providers that illegally favored Microsoft's Internet Web browser over Netscape's.

Microsoft also contended that under federal copyright laws it - not the government or others - has the right to determine how its software looks on computer screens. The company also said that bundling its Internet Explorer browser with its Windows software was not illegal, as the Justice Department has claimed, because Windows and the browser aren't separate products.

Microsoft and the Justice Department are scheduled to go to trial Sept. 23. But Jackson could elect to dismiss some of the Justice Department's claims before the trial begins.