U.S. Government Joins Microsoft Against States

The 2002 consent decree that partially governs Microsoft's actions about its monopolistic business practices was originally supposed to expire today. But Redmond is currently locked in a battle with a coalition of states that want to see federal oversight extended for another half-decade.

On Friday, Microsoft picked up an ally -- the very same government. The U.S. Department of Justice joined Microsoft in its attempt to persuade U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly that the consent decree has done its job and should expire this month.

At issue is the antitrust settlement that followed the Court's original finding that Microsoft had unfairly stifled competition through its Windows monopoly. Among other things, the decree stipulates that Windows development is supervised by a technical committee, and ensures that rivals have an even playing field. The current deadline was moved from today until Jan. 31 of next year.

The DOJ's brief argues that the states' rationale for extending the decree are illogical and even contradict their own past claims. The group of 17 states are led, as they have been throughout, by California and New York (called "Movants" in the brief).

"The California and New York Movants advance inadequate and mutually inconsistent arguments to justify extension of the Final Judgments; both state groups argue theories, moreover, that are directly contravened by the states' own past statements and actions," the document states.

The brief argues a number of points, but the main argument it asserts is that the original consent decree was properly adhered to by Microsoft. In fact, the DOJ asserts, even some of the contesting states have said as much.

"As the New York Group informed the Court two months ago, the Final Judgments 'have achieved [their] goals' and 'are enabling the competition they are designed to protect.' The California Movants do not provide any evidence that the goals of the expiring provisions of the Final Judgments have not been achieved, when those goals are properly considered in light of the Court of Appeals decision and this Court's ruling. Accordingly, there is no legal basis upon which to seek such an extension," it reads.

The states have until Friday to respond to Microsoft and the DOJ's latest briefs.

About the Author

Keith Ward is editor of Virtualization Review magazine. You can contact Keith at [email protected].