Dates set in antitrust suits against Microsoft

A U.S. federal court in Baltimore Tuesday set Oct. 1 as the date for a hearing on whether more than 100 antitrust suits filed by consumers against Microsoft Corp. should be grouped together as a class action suit, according to people who attended the hearing.

In a pretrial conference before Judge Frederick Motz of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Oct. 1 was scheduled as the date for a class certification of the cases. The parties also set Oct. 24 as the date for a hearing on whether Microsoft can be bound by findings already issued in the U.S. Department of Justice’s case against the software maker, according to people who attended the hearing.

A third hearing in the court, scheduled to begin Dec. 3, will consider Sun Microsystems Inc.’s claim that Microsoft, in Redmond, Wash., used anti-competitive practices to block the distribution of its Java technology.

Sun, along with Netscape Communications Corp., now a subsidiary of AOL Time Warner Inc.; Be Inc.; and Inc. are the competitors whose antitrust lawsuits against Microsoft have been assigned to Motz. The competitors’ cases were transferred to Motz at the request of the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, whose job is to streamline related cases filed in multiple districts. In addition, Motz has been overseeing the more than 100 cases filed by consumers.