MS ANTITRUST - More US states urge extension of settlement

Five more states join others in asking the court to extend the judgment of the antitrust suit against Microsoft.

Four states that recently said the U.S. federal judgment in the Microsoft antitrust case has done its job have made an about face, now joining other states asking for an extension of the judgment.

New York, Maryland, Louisiana and Florida asked the court to extend the term of the judgment for another five years, according to a filing they made with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The states join California, Connecticut, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Massachusetts and the District of Columbia in asking for the extension.

As recently as August the states led by New York said the judgment was achieving its goal of fostering competition.

Now they've changed their tune. "An extension is appropriate to assure that marketplace participants have sufficient opportunity to establish positions to compete against Microsoft, an entrenched monopolist," they wrote in the filing.

Microsoft's "well-known difficulties" complying with parts of the judgment have hurt the chances for more competition in the market, they wrote. The filing also stated that the pace of technological development of the overall operating system market hasn't moved as fast as expected when the judgment was written, so that removing oversight of the judgment now would impair the chances of potential competitors.

The states suggest that extending the judgment shouldn't unduly harm Microsoft, since the company said in a case brought by the European Commission that the settlement in the U.S. hadn't negatively impacted its incentive to innovate.

In response to the filing by the New York group of states, Microsoft reiterated its comments following the filing earlier this week by the California group. "We believe the consent decree has served its purpose," Jack Evans, a Microsoft spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement. "Microsoft has worked hard to implement the decree's requirements and has changed its practices as a result."

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