A federal judge says his view of the government's antitrust case against Microsoft is broader than the company's and indicated he will reject the company's argument that the government is trying to include new claims in its lawsuit.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson said Thursday he believes the government was adding what it described as new evidence against Microsoft to support its case, not making new allegations.Microsoft wanted the judge to prohibit the government from raising new claims about its behavior and asked him to restrict the case to a narrow set of charges that it believes it easily can defeat.
"Our position is, the government is trying to expand its case in the final hour, that these claims were not part of the case brought in May," Microsoft lawyer John Warden said. The trial is scheduled to start Sept. 23.
Jackson said he formally will rule on the company's request Sept. 17, but he told Warden he believes the government's case already includes broad charges that the company acted illegally toward its rivals in the high-tech industry.
"My view of the case as raised by the complaint is not as narrow as yours," the judge told the company's lawyer. Warden said he might ask the judge to delay the trial for months if he rules against Microsoft.
At issue is whether new information about meetings between Microsoft and some of its rivals, including Apple Computer and Intel Corp., would be considered new evidence, which would be allowed, or new allegations, which would require the government to file an amended lawsuit, explained Robert Litan, a former senior Justice official.
Jackson on Thursday gave Microsoft 24 hours to turn over documents about some of its meetings with Intel and Apple dating back to 1995. The government asked for the information, which Jackson called "an appropriate request."
Microsoft has been preparing its defense against charges that it illegally bundled its Internet browser with its Windows software and used exclusionary agreements with Internet companies and computer makers to smother the market for an Internet browser by its rival, Netscape Communications Corp.
The company's legal strategy was buoyed in June by a federal appeals court ruling in a related case that bundling Microsoft's browser with Windows was a "genuine integration," which is legal, because a single combined product offers benefits over separate ones.