Court says AOL can file brief in Microsoft appeal

The U.S. Court of Appeals said Friday that America Online Inc. could file a brief in favor of the government’s position during Microsoft Corp.’s appeal in its ongoing antitrust case.

Microsoft filed a request earlier in the week seeking to limit the number of friend-of-the-court briefs filed by its competitors in the appeals process. The appeals court said Friday that AOL must file a joint brief along with three trade groups that oppose Microsoft, rather than filing separate briefs as each group had desired.

The brief should not exceed 25 pages, and must be filed by Jan. 12, 2000, the appeals court said. The three trade groups involved are the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA), the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), and the Project to Promote Competition & Innovation in the Digital Age (ProComp).

AOL – which acquired Microsoft rival Netscape Communications Corp. in 1999 – filed legal papers Thursday asking the appeals court to impose a “forward-looking remedy” in the Microsoft case, and requesting permission to file another brief in support of the government’s case.

The court additionally said Friday that two groups looking to support Microsoft – the Association for Competitive Technology (ACT) and the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) file a joint brief, per their request. That brief should appear by Nov. 27 of this year and should also not exceed 25 pages.

The court also ordered Friday that the Association for Objective Law (TAFOL) and the Center for the Moral Defense of Capitalism (CMDC) file a joint brief 25 pages or less by the same, Nov. 27 deadline.

Three individuals seeking to file briefs in the case – Lee Hollaar, Laura Peterson and Carl Lundgren – will be allowed to file separate briefs not exceeding 25 pages if filed by Jan. 12, 2001.

Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson ruled in June that Microsoft broke antitrust laws and ordered that the company be split into two separate entities. That order was later put on hold pending the outcome of Microsoft’s appeal. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is hearing the appeal, after the Supreme Court rejected a government’s request to hear the case directly.

AOL, in Dulles, Va., is at Microsoft, in Redmond, Wash., can be reached at The DOJ, in Washington, D.C., can be reached at