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'You're still guilty,' judge in Sun et al antitrust case tells MS

MS fails to get 395 sins counted as irrelevant

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US District Judge J Frederick Motz has rejected a Microsoft attempt to – effectively – have a string of prior convictions expunged from its record. Yesterday the Maryland judge denied a request by Microsoft attorneys to re-open 395 of Judge Penfield Jackson's 412 findings of fact, so for the moment at least Jackson's conclusions can be used in the case Motz is dealing with.

One does rather wonder why 395, and what are those 17 points on which Jackson and Microsoft are in perfect accord. No matter, as one antitrust case fades another begins to move into the foreground. Motz is handling the cases brought by Sun, Netscape, Be Inc, Burst.com and a group of consumers. These were filed after Jackson's findings, the point being that once Microsoft's transgressions had been established, those viewing themselves as victims were then equipped to take it out of the company's hide.

This could prove expensive for Microsoft. The objective of US versus Microsoft, remember, was not to punish the company but to curb anticompetitive conduct and to guard against its repeat in the future. So, whatever you think about how stonkingly brilliantly the DoJ executed this mission, the case by its very nature did not include vast fines and/or damages.

However, if Jackson's findings can be used in subsequent suits, which Motz has ruled they can, then it is clearly guilty of many things, and it's largely a matter of figuring out whether companies like Sun, Netscape, Be and Burst.com were hurt by this, and if so, to what extent. From Microsoft's perspective, it is therefore important to have as many of Jackson's findings as possible thrown out on the basis that they are not applicable in particular cases.

According to a Reuters report, having failed to get the findings ejected en bloc, Microsoft intends to file challenging specific findings on 20th November. A spokesman told Reuters that Microsoft disputed allegations that it overcharged, and given what good fun the pricing evidence in the other trial was, this looks promising. Regrettably, neither Microsoft nor Sun seems yet to have cranked up any kind of transcript machine for this one – Scott, could you see to it before we get to the juicy bits? Thanks. ®

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