MS/DOJ: Witness depositions set

It only seems like the government's antitrust case against Microsoft has gone away because the trial has been in recess since late February, but it ramps up again this week when the software maker conducts the first public depositions in the case. Netscape executive VP Peter Currie is scheduled for Wednesday and Sun Microsystems' VP and COO of staff operations Mike Popov is slated for Friday.

It only seems like the government's antitrust case against Microsoft has gone away because the trial has been in recess since late February, but it ramps up again this week when the software maker conducts the first public depositions in the case.

Mike Popov, vice president and chief operating officer of staff operations at Sun Microsystems, is slated to be deposed next Friday April 30, and Peter Currie, executive vice president at Netscape Communications , is set to be deposed Wednesday April 28.

Sun offered up Popov to the legal process because Microsoft subpoenaed Sun asking for details regarding the acquisition of Netscape Communications by America Online (AOL). Sun has a stake in the merger deal, and Popov "was integrally involved in the negotiations," Sun spokeswoman Lisa Poulson said today.

US District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson has ruled that the merger might play a role in the Microsoft antitrust case, which hinges in part on the software giant's entry into the Internet browser market -- an entry the government contends has succeeded because Microsoft behaved in an anti-competitive manner. The US Department of Justice and 19 state attorneys general sued Microsoft on antitrust grounds.

Besides Sun, Microsoft also subpoenaed AOL and Netscape for documents and depositions from executives considered to be the "most knowledgeable" about the deal. Netscape executives already have testified in the trial, which is expected to resume in mid-May, depending on how quickly another trial Jackson is presiding over concludes.

Jackson previously ruled that depositions in the case had to be open to the public with the news media allowed to attend, but that process was held up by the appeals process. An appellate court upheld Jackson's decision, so all future depositions will be open. Transcripts of past depositions, about 100 in all, will also be made public. The deadline for these transcripts to be made public is April 28.

Both the government and Microsoft are to release the names of four rebuttal witnesses each will call when the trial resumes. All of the names were to be released on Friday, but much of the federal government, including the DOJ, was closed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of NATO.

(Additional reporting by Marc Ferranti.)

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