Trade groups add voice to antitrust appeal

Two computer industry trade groups have thrown their weight, and piles of legal paper work, behind two states that continue to press Microsoft in its landmark antitrust bout with the US government.

          Two computer industry trade groups have thrown their weight, and piles of legal paper work, behind two states that continue to press Microsoft in its landmark antitrust bout with the US government.

          The Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) and the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA) have filed a motion with a federal appeals court in Washington, DC, to appeal District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly's approval of a settlement between Microsoft and the US Department of Justice (DOJ).

          Before they can appeal, they must be granted the right to intervene in the case. The court will also hear a separate appeal by Virginia and Massachusetts in the four-year-old case.

          Microsoft agreed to a settlement more than a year ago with the DOJ and nine of the 18 states that were also plaintiffs in the case. Kollar-Kotelly signed off on that settlement in November, and seven more states agreed not to appeal her decision. Virginia and Massachusetts continue to argue that the settlement is full of loopholes.

          The trade groups, which represent companies including Sun, AOL Time Warner and Oracle, are asking the appeals court to rule that the settlement was not in the public's best interest. They point to scores of public comments entered in the case as part of the Tunney Act proceedings. The Tunney Act is a federal statute outlining steps that must be taken in federal antitrust settlements to ensure that a deal is cut without any outside influence and in the public's best interest.

          It included a 60-day period for the public to file comments with the DOJ, which reported in February that it received roughly 30,000 public comments as a result.

          CCIA and SIIA both submitted extensive comments to the government, arguing that the terms of the settlement didn't go far enough to protect consumers and competitors against further anticompetitive actions by Microsoft.

          "We respectfully conclude that this settlement is not in the public interest," the groups say in a joint statement. "We believe the appeals court should have an opportunity to review that determination."

          Microsoft has said it was pleased with Kollar-Kotelly's decision, adding that it was a "tough, but fair, compromise."

          A third industry trade group that has backed Microsoft throughout the antitrust case issued a statement in response to the filing. The Association for Competitive Technology argued that the two groups are pursuing a punishment that is "unnecessary" and "dangerous to the economy."

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