Juries ahead in trials for Microsoft

Microsoft and Bristol Technology last week interviewed potential jurors for a private antitrust trial slated to start June 2. Legal experts said having a jury of ordinary citizens examine Microsoft's business tactics may spell trouble for the big software vendor. Meanwhile, the judge denied Microsoft's motion to delay the trial.

Microsoft and Bristol Technology last week interviewed potential jurors for a private antitrust trial slated to start June 2. Legal experts said having a jury of ordinary citizens examine Microsoft’s business tactics may spell trouble for the big software vendor.

Meanwhile, the judge in the case in District Court in Bridgeport, Connecticut last week denied Microsoft’s motion to delay the trial.

Bristol, a small tools vendor in Danbury, Connecticut, sued Microsoft last August, claiming Microsoft used anticompetitive moves to try to shut Bristol out of the Unix-to-Windows translation tools market. After a contract that gave Bristol access to Windows NT code expired, the two couldn’t reach a new deal.

Come June, a jury of six to 10 people will decide whether Bristol’s complaints are legitimate.

“Bristol is more likely to be the beneficiary of a jury than Microsoft, especially since one of the themes will be they’re just a small local company trying to make a living,” said Rich Gray, an antitrust lawyer at Bergeson, Eliopoulos, Grady and Gray LLP in San Jose.

But because Microsoft may benefit if the trial becomes too technical, Tony Clapes, one of Bristol’s lawyers, said he will strive to keep the trial’s terms simple. Clapes, a Honolulu-based lawyer at Technology Law Network, worked as a lead attorney for IBM in its federal antitrust case in the 1970s.

The trial, which is expected to last six to eight weeks, could end before the federal antitrust case against Microsoft by the U.S. Department of Justice. That means the Bristol case could be the first to offer a formal decision on whether Microsoft has a monopoly.

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