MS/DOJ - UPDATE: Govt makes minor changes in remedy plan

The government contends in a court document filed yesterday that Microsoft's arguments in its latest brief, filed last week, went beyond the scope of what the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and state attorneys general are calling for in the remedies phase of the historic antitrust case against the software maker.

Microsoft also addressed issues that already have been argued in previous court proceedings and documents, the DOJ and 17 state attorneys general argued in their brief yesterday, which is expected to be their last in the remedies phase of the case.

Yesterday's 27-page document, which includes various attachments, also delves into semantics, with the plaintiffs agreeing with a Microsoft request to call the proposed breakup of the company a "divestiture" rather than a "reorganisation".

US District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson gave the plaintiffs until yesterday morning to file additional comments on the most recent brief from the software maker. Microsoft has until Wednesday to respond to the government brief.

The DOJ and 17 of 19 state attorneys general who filed suit against Microsoft have recommended that Jackson order the company be split in two, with one entity focused on operating systems and another on other software applications. Microsoft vehemently opposes that plan, though it has said it will agree to behavioural remedies. Two state attorneys general have recommended only behavioural remedies, which are aimed at stopping Microsoft's anticompetitive behaviour.

Judge Jackson has ruled that Microsoft is a monopoly and illegally used its monopoly power in the operating systems market in an attempt to squelch competition and to make inroads into other markets, notably internet browser software.

He is expected to issue his final ruling, which will set forth the remedies he wants imposed on Microsoft, perhaps as soon as this week. Jackson is widely viewed as already having made his decision"He seems to me like a man who is desperately trying to catch a train," Bill Kovacic, a law professor at George Washington University, said of Jackson and the speed with which he is pushing along the remedy phase.

Kovacic expects that the government brief filed yesterday will wind up being the final remedy ruling from Jackson. He predicted that Jackson will "take the government's revised order and sign it".

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