Supreme Court decision good news for Microsoft

Legal experts said the Supreme Court's decision not to immediately take up Microsoft's appeal of US District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's June order that it be split into two separate companies is good news for the software vendor. An initial review by the Washington-based appeals court gives Microsoft more time to present its case and improves its odds for reversing or weakening Jackson's ruling that the company used a monopoly in operating systems to thwart competition and stifle innovation, according to legal analysts.

The US Court of Appeals may be a friendlier venue for Microsoft than Jackson's courtroom, based on earlier decisions that the panel made in antitrust-related proceedings against the company. Two years ago, for example, the appeals court reversed an injunction issued by Jackson that prohibited Microsoft from bundling its Internet Explorer Web browser with Windows 95.

Involving the appeals court in the case "could only lead to [Microsoft's] advantage," said Yee Wah Chin, an antitrust attorney. "Conversely, for the government, they have more shots at losing."

The immediate impact of the Supreme Court's decision is to prolong a case that has been in litigation since May 1998, when 19 US states and the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Microsoft accusing it of anticompetitive behavior. The appeals court isn't expected to complete its work on the case until this time next year. Barring any settlement, the case would then probably go back to the Supreme Court for consideration, with a final decision on the matter coming by mid-2002.

Microsoft spokesman Jim Cullinan Tuesday said the company remains "confident of our case on appeal," regardless of whether it was heard by the court of appeals or directly by the Supreme Court. "We look forward to presenting our arguments," he added. Justice Department officials couldn't be reached by deadline for comment on the decision.

In written arguments to the Supreme Court, the government had argued that an expedited review was necessary because of the uncertainty that Jackson's breakup order had created, particularly for high-tech companies that are dependent on Microsoft's operating system specifications for systems development. But Microsoft argued that the case was "too messy" for the Supreme Court and needed an initial review by the lower appellate court to clarify the issues involved in the matter.

While Tuesday's announcement was a victory for Microsoft, Hillard Sterling, an antitrust attorney, said the Supreme Court's decision not to immediately hear the company's appeal shouldn't be interpreted as a statement about the strength or weakness of the government's case.

"I don't think you can extrapolate a decision on the merits from these procedural issues," Sterling said. "Doing so would be like reading tea leaves."

But Sterling added that the decision does buy more time for Microsoft, something that helped IBM in its decade-long antitrust battle with the government in the 1970s. "The greater the delay, the stronger Microsoft's arguments become that these markets are self-correcting," he said. "Each day brings new technological and economic developments that arguably render this case less relevant to protecting competition."

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?