Compelling public interest should lead the US Supreme Court to review the Microsoft antitrust case, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and state prosecutors said in a brief filed with the nation's highest court yesterday.
"This suit has immense importance to our national economy," government attorneys said in the 30-page brief.
"It is especially important to the rapidly developing high-technology sectors, which need to know how they will be affected."
Yesterday's filing by the DOJ was in response to a brief that Microsoft filed with the Supreme Court on July 26 that argued an appeal was warranted because the lawsuit filed against it by the DOJ and 19 US states was full of factual and legal errors.
Microsoft wants the case to be heard by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, rather than being put on a fast track to the Supreme Court.
The Redmond, Washington-based software maker still believes a lower appeals court review is warranted, Microsoft spokesman Jim Cullinan said.
"We continue to believe the Supreme Court would benefit from an initial review of a complex and technical appeal by the court of appeals," Cullinan said.
The DOJ is seeking an expedited appeals process.
"The public interest requires prompt and final resolution on the issues on appeal, both so that effective remedies can be put in place to restore competitive conditions and protect consumers and so that the computer and software industries can plan for the future," government attorneys said in the brief.
Microsoft will reply to the DOJ's brief by August 22. The Supreme Court is expected to make a decision on the jurisdictional question as early as next month.
US District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson ordered in June that Microsoft be split into two companies: one focused on operating systems and a second on other software applications. He also ruled that Microsoft is subject to a set of behavioral remedies. Those remedies have been put on hold until the appeals process is completed.
The Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA) was expected to file a brief with the Supreme Court urging an expedited resolution of the Microsoft case.
Further delay of the case will allow Microsoft to expand and consolidate its gains from "illegal conduct," the Washington, DC trade association said.
"The factual record (of the case) was established in 1998 and 1999," said SIIA president Ken Wasch. "The factual record is aging. The industry and consumers are entitled to the benefits of the relief (requested) by Judge Jackson."
SIIA represents more than 1000 companies that develop and market software and electronic content for business, education, consumers and the Internet.