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Microsoft Asks Appeals Court To Dismiss Antitrust Lawsuit

By James V. Grimaldi

Arguing that the Microsoft antitrust trial had been “infected with error,” attorneys for the software giant Monday asked a federal appeals court to throw out the landmark case, including a judge’s order to break up the company for violating federal antitrust laws.

In its filing to U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, Microsoft denied that its Windows products amounted to a monopoly for personal-computer operating systems. The company said that the government had not proven its case that Microsoft had broken antitrust laws to protect and maintain that monopoly.

“Far from violating antitrust laws, Microsoft’s conduct was pro-competitive, producing enormous consumer benefits,” the Microsoft appeal said.

Microsoft attorneys also asked that if the appeals court does not reverse the judgment, as the company requests, that if any matter is sent back to district court that it be assigned to a judge other than U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson. After a 78-day trial, Jackson ruled this year that Microsoft, partly in response to Netscape Communications’ creation of the Internet browser, had mounted an illegal campaign meant to protect its monopoly and attempted to monopolize the new market for Internet browsers. He ordered the company broken into two competing companies, one that makes Windows operating system software and another that makes software applications, such as Microsoft Office.

“Revealing a profound misunderstanding of the antitrust laws, the district court condemned Microsoft’s competitive response to the phenomenal growth of the Internet and the emergence of Netscape as a platform competitor,” Microsoft said in its 150-page brief filed Monday afternoon.

The U.S. Justice Department, 18 states and the District of Columbia file their joint reply brief on Jan. 12. Oral arguments are planned for Feb. 26 and 27 before the seven judges eligible for hearing the matter. A ruling is expected as soon as later this year and appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court are expected.

The Justice Department said Microsoft’s call for dismissal of the case was unwarranted. “The judgment is well supported by the evidence offered during a 78-day trial, including thousands of pages of documents,” Gina Talamona said.