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January 29, 2008

US antitrust oversight of Microsoft extended

Posted by David Hunter at 10:42 PM ET.

Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly announced today that she agrees with the states who sought an extension of antitrust oversight of Microsoft and has extended it until November 12, 2009. This however was less than the extension to 2012 that the states had requested:

The consent decree’s expiration had been temporarily pushed back until January 31 while Kollar-Kotelly considered the motion filed by 10 states to extend government oversight of Microsoft.

The states, which include California and New York, wanted the decree extended until 2012, arguing that Microsoft would again use its market dominance to crush competitors once the decree expired.

Kollar-Kotelly wrote in her opinion that the extension should not be seen as a “sanction” against Microsoft, but she said the delays in documentation meant the objectives of the settlement had not been fully achieved.

She also left open the possibility that the decree could be extended in the future and said there are mechanisms in place to reexamine the decree in the fall of 2009.

“We will continue to comply fully with the consent decree,” Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel, said in a statement. “We built Windows Vista in compliance with these rules, and we will continue to adhere to the decree’s requirements.”

Microsoft’s inability or unwillingness to provide documentation bites them once again as this quote from the written judgement illustrates:

Nevertheless, practically speaking, Microsoft has never complied with § III.E. While Microsoft eventually proposed a plan that now appears to be producing the type of quality technical documentation required by § III.E, it did so in the face of mounting pressure from all Plaintiffs and the Court. In addition, there is no reason why the type of documentation finally being created could not have been created from the outset if the necessary resources had been devoted to the project.

The practical effect of not providing the documentation on time does not seem so dire as in the EU antitrust case, but all that could change if a new administration in Washington adopted a more activist role on antitrust. Think Neelie Kroes on the Potomac.

Filed under Antitrust, General Business, Governmental Relations, Legal, Microsoft

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