Microsoft trial delayed?

As DOJ lawyers propose delaying the trial, Justice says it may need to take further steps to prevent Microsoft from violating antitrust laws in the future.

As Justice Department lawyers propose delaying the October 15 opening of the government's antitrust case against Microsoft by four days, the DOJ says it may need to take additional steps to prevent the software giant from violating antitrust laws in the future.

The landmark lawsuit would begin on Monday, October 19, if Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson agrees to the request, according to sources close to the case. Microsoft has already agreed to the Justice Department's proposal, the sources said.

Last night, an agency spokesman could not confirm that the DOJ had made the request. A Microsoft representative declined comment.

The Justice Department said today that if it wins the major antitrust trial proving that Microsoft abused monopoly power, a new court hearing may be needed to impose punishment against the software giant.

Some critics have said that a Justice Department win would have little effect on Microsoft, which already is moving beyond the subject matter of the trial and into new areas. The Justice Department today said for the first time, however, that it might widen the scope of sanctions.

"Depending on the nature and scope of the violations determined by the court at trial, plaintiffs will seek such additional permanent relief as is necessary to restore competitive conditions and to prevent Microsoft from committing similar violations in the future," the Justice Department and 20 states said in a ten-page filing. "To that end, plaintiffs may request that the court conduct additional proceedings for the purpose of hearing evidence concerning such additional relief."

The principal effect of the trial's delay likely would be to push back pretrial deadlines by four days. Written testimony of witnesses is due on Friday of this week.

Last month, the landmark antitrust case was pushed back three weeks at the request of both sides.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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