U.S. government brief defends Microsoft decision

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Friday issued an appellate court brief in the government’s antitrust case against Microsoft Corp., defending both U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson’s ruling, as well as the judge himself.

“The government proved at trial that Microsoft had engaged in a broad pattern of anticompetitive conduct to eradicate a developing threat to its monopoly power in its core business – personal computer operating systems – and that Microsoft’s conduct harmed consumers,” the brief stated.

The DOJ also addressed the issue of whether or not Judge Jackson’s comments out of court, to the press, tainted the proceedings.

“Judge Jackson’s out-of-court comments do not merit vacating the judgment or removing him from further proceedings,” the brief said.

In a brief filed with the same court – the U.S. Court of Appeals – in November, Microsoft Corp. blasted the lower court’s decision in the government’s antitrust case, asserting that U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson’s ruling to break up the software giant was based on a misunderstanding of antitrust issues.

The company argued in the brief that because of a variety of factual, legal and procedural errors, the ruling should be reversed. Microsoft said that the ruling would harm, rather than encourage innovation. The Microsoft brief also argued that the judge’s comments out of court have shown that he is biased against the company. Since the November brief by Microsoft, Judge Jackson has continued to publicly comment, most recently in the New Yorker magazine.

Judge Jackson ruled on June 7 that Microsoft had used its dominance in operating systems to quash competition. Adopting the proposal of U.S. Department of Justice prosecutors, he ruled Microsoft must be broken up into two separate companies.

One company would own the Windows operating system – subject to conduct restrictions – while the other would own applications, including the Microsoft Office suite of software applications and the Internet Explorer Web browser. Jackson’s final judgment stayed the breakup until the end of the appeals process.

The two sides are set to present oral arguments to the appeals court next month.

Microsoft, in Redmond, Wash., can be reached at http://www.microsoft.com/. The DOJ, in Washington, D.C., can be reached via the Internet at http://www.usdoj.gov/.