DOJ, States to Meet on Microsoft Antitrust Case

Department of Justice officials will meet next week with the attorneys general of states that are investigating Microsoft Corp. on antitrust grounds, according to a source familiar with the meeting plans.

Department of Justice officials will meet next week with the attorneys general of states that are investigating Microsoft Corp. on antitrust grounds, according to a source familiar with the meeting plans.

The meeting is meant to serve as a way to exchange information and share the result of analysis into antitrust issues conducted by the DOJ and the states attorneys general, said the source. It is not meant to lay the groundwork for a joint case by both the DOJ and the attorneys general, said the source.

Spokesmen at the DOJ and state attorneys general offices declined to comment.

About 10 states, including Texas, New York and Illinois are conducting investigations into alleged anti-competitive business practices by Microsoft. They have subpoenaed documents from Microsoft, including documents relating to the company's plans to market Windows 98, according to state attorneys general sources.

The states are sharing information with the DOJ in an effort to determine whether Microsoft has illegally leveraged the dominant market position of its Windows operating system to force its Internet Explorer browser on customers, according to state attorneys general sources.

The current DOJ case against Microsoft revolves around the specific issue of whether the software giant is in contempt of court for breeching a 1995 consent decree. The consent decree allows Microsoft to ingrate software into Windows, but forbids it from "tying" separate products to the operating system. Tying occurs when a company forces third parties to buy or license a product on condition that they also buy or license a second, separate product.

Microsoft has appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia an injunction forcing it to offer Windows and its Explorer browser separately to manufacturers. The injunction was ordered by District Court Judge Thomas Jackson, who is presiding over the current DOJ case. Oral arguments in the appeal are set to be heard April 21.

[See, "Microsoft Antitrust Inquiries, Concerns Widen," Feb. 5]

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