Microsoft vs. US DoJ trial may be swift

Microsoft and the US Department of Justice have been in court as part of a status conference on the US government's antitrust case against the software company.

Among the matters decided was the number of witnesses allowed for each side. Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson said he would allow Microsoft and the Justice Department up to 12 witnesses each for the trial that begins Sept. 8.

Besides status reports in July and August, the judge also wants Microsoft to file by Aug. 10 its response to the US government's request for a preliminary injunction that would force Microsoft to include rival Netscape Communications's Navigator browser with Windows 98.

The judge did not rule on a May 28 motion by Microsoft to keep all the documents in the case under seal. Microsoft insisted that making the records public would harm the company competitively. But a memorandum filed with the Justice Department cited a circuit court ruling that said "courts are public institutions that best serve the public when they do their business openly and in full view".

Microsoft officials were not available for comment on the issue by news time. While the company has posted most of its legal documents at its Web site, it has not made public the May 28 motion to keep its documents under seal.

Justice Department spokesperson Gina Talamona yesterday said that the burden of proof is on Microsoft to explain why airing out the documents and depositions would cause it injury. "You have to show a reason why something should be sealed, not the other way around," said Talamona.

Talamona said that the Microsoft documents wouldn't be made public unless the judge allowed it, but it's not clear when Jackson will rule on the matter. The judge did indicate, however, that he wants to move swiftly on the trial.

Jackson told Microsoft and the Justice Department yesterday that he is "prepared to devote the month of September to the trial of this case".

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