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Microsoft Says Netscape Set Up Meeting to Manufacture Evidence

By Rajiv Chandrasekaran
The Washington Post

Microsoft Corp. attorneys accused rival Netscape Communications Corp. Monday of setting up a controversial June 1995 meeting between executives of the companies "for the express purpose of manufacturing evidence against Microsoft." Justice Department lawyers responded by saying the material Microsoft gave a federal judge to support that contention actually helps the government's antitrust lawsuit against the software giant.

As the second week of the trial between Microsoft and the government began, Microsoft attorneys also asked Netscape's chief executive in a closed court session about negotiations his company is having with America Online Inc. Netscape has been urging AOL to more closely integrate Netscape's Internet "browsing" technology into AOL's software when an agreement between Microsoft and AOL expires Jan. 1, 1999, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Before the day's proceedings began, however, Microsoft gave U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson a copy of a letter and a subpoena that the company contends supports its claim that the June 1995 meeting was a "setup." The letter, written by lawyer Gary Reback, who used to represent Netscape, was sent to Justice two days after the meeting between Netscape and Microsoft.

The letter, which details the meeting and includes notes of the encounter taken by Netscape executive Marc Andreessen, was sent to Justice in response to a civil subpoena that the department had issued to Netscape the day before - one day after the meeting.

"The recently produced documents demonstrate quite clearly that the June 21, 1995, meeting was a 'set up' orchestrated by Netscape's counsel," Microsoft wrote in support of its request to Jackson.

Netscape and the government allege that, at the meeting, the software giant urged Netscape, then an upstart firm, not to make browsers that would run on personal computers using Microsoft's popular Windows 95 operating system because Microsoft wanted to control that market.

Microsoft argues the meeting was a routine business encounter where nothing untoward occurred.