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US court waves through Microsoft DoJ settlement

Massachusetts is unhappy

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The US Court of Appeals has rejected the appeal of the state of Massachusetts and two US industry groups against Microsoft's anti-trust settlement and final judgment with the US Department of Justice and 18 states. The dissenters had called on the court to make Microsoft uncouple - or, in their phrase, to stop commingling - Windows from other programs, such as Internet Explorer.

But a six-strong panel of judges said the November 2002 DoJ settlement approved by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly was in the public interest, achieving the desired outcome on competition without forcing Microsoft to rewrite code.

Brad Smith, Microsoft general counsel, hailed today's victory as "the most important step (over the past two years) in resolving our legal issues and moving forward...At the heart of this case was the question of whether Microsoft should be required to remove software code from our products, or provide multiple versions of our products with certain features removed. This unanimous decision clearly states that removing code would be a huge step backwards for consumers and for the industry as a whole."

Massachusetts was the only state to hold out against the DoJ settlement. And it is still talking a good fight. According to Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly, the judgment shows that antitrust laws are not working. "Our high-tech economy will not reach its full potential unless regulators and the courts are willing to deal with Microsoft and its predatory practices," he said, Reuters reports.

His allies, the Computer and Communications Industry Association and the Software and Information Industry Association, are vociferous opponents of Microsoft. But endgame approaches in the US. The lobby groups on both sides will now turn their attentions to the European courts The European Commission this year imposed tougher penalties than the US against Microsoft, of which the most important was the order to decouple Media Player from Windows. The sanctions were suspended last weekend, as part of the appeals process. Resolution may take up to three years. ®

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