Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Microsoft Antitrust Problems Rise Again

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Microsoft Antitrust Problems Rise Again

Article excerpt

NEW YORK _ Nearly six months after Microsoft Corp. signed an agreement with the Justice Department, the software company's antitrust troubles may not be over.

A federal judge has not yet approved the settlement and some Microsoft rivals this week filed a motion to block it, citing market developments since the agreement was reached.

The length of time it has taken for a judge to review a settlement is not unusual. But formal opposition is rare this late in such cases.

Representatives of Microsoft and the Justice Department said Wednesday they believe the settlement, which was reached last July and forced the company to change a few practices, should be approved.

"That's absolutely our position," said William Neukom, chief counsel for Microsoft, the largest maker of personal computer software.

But the new motion raises the prospect that U.S. District Judge Stanley Sporkin, who has scheduled a hearing on Jan. 20, may do something else. He could seek to change the terms or order hearings that would bring into the open a four-year government investigation of Microsoft.

However, the companies who filed the motion are unknown. They don't want to be identified for fear of retaliation by Microsoft, said their attorney, Gary Reback of Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich Rosati, a Silicon Valley law firm.

The motion asks Sporkin for permission to present documents about marketplace changes since the settlement. Instead of stirring competition and bringing lower prices, some companies have left the operating system business and Microsoft plans to sharply raise prices on its next product, Reback said the documents show.

The motion also urges the judge to ask the Justice Department for documents to "explain how permitting Microsoft to profit from its illegal conduct not just by continuing, but by expanding, its monopolization of the software industry can be argued to be in the `public interest.' "

The government began to investigate Microsoft in 1990 when competitors complained the company was unfairly using its dominance in operating systems, which run the basic functions of a personal computer, to sell its programs that do specific applications, such as a spreadsheet or word processor. …

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