WASHINGTON — Microsoft Corp.'s legal fight with government antitrust enforcers is set to start Oct. 15 as a federal judge granted a three-week delay and dismissed the company's request to have the case thrown out.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson said there are enough factual disputes between Microsoft and federal and state antitrust enforcers to warrant further examination by trial. He did, however, agree to dismiss one of the states' charges of monopoly leveraging and signed off on a proposal by both sides to delay the trial's start by three weeks. The trial had been set to start Sept. 23.
Jackson's 54-page decision also explained his take on a court ruling that Microsoft contends undermines the charge by the Justice Department and 20 states that the software giant illegally combined its Windows operating system with its Internet Explorer browser. Microsoft could combine the products if it showed consumers benefited, a District of Columbia appeals court said in June.
Jackson, though, latched on to language in that opinion that said manufacturers such as Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft "should not be permitted to 'metaphorically bolt two products together' for an anti-competitive purpose (or for no purpose at all)." The real test, he said, is whether the products work better when combined by Microsoft rather than by computer makers or consumers themselves.
Jackson said federal and state antitrust enforcers should be prepared to prove more than that Windows and Explorer are two separate products. Government attorneys "must also show that Windows [the alleged tying product] is conditioned on the purchase of Internet Explorer, and that the conditioning affects a 'substantial volume of commerce' in the browser market," Jackson wrote.