U.S.-Microsoft antitrust deal to get temporary extension

Procedural move would give judge more time to decide whether it's necessary to impose on Redmond a lengthier watchdog period, as recently advocated by a number of state prosecutors.

Microsoft, state prosecutors, and the U.S. Department of Justice on Tuesday said a federal judge needs more time to weigh whether Redmond should be subjected to a lengthier period of antitrust policing.

In a joint filing with U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who has been overseeing Microsoft's antitrust compliance, they asked for a soon-to-expire oversight period to be temporarily extended until at latest January 31, 2008. That way, the judge will have more time to weigh the merits of last-minute pleas from a number of state prosecutors to add another five years to the oversight regime.

Right now, most of Microsoft's 2002 consent decree with the Bush administration is set to expire November 12. One small portion, related to a communications protocol licensing program that has encountered numerous delays since its inception, has already been extended through November 2009.

Kollar-Kotelly is expected to sign off on the new schedule without incident, as the timeline was discussed during a conference call with the parties last week.

It's important to note that the temporary extension is purely procedural and would be imposed "without prejudice," meaning the judge isn't reaching any conclusions yet on whether Microsoft needs to be overseen by state and federal prosecutors for a lengthier period of time.

Under a new schedule proposed by the joint court filing, Microsoft would have until next Tuesday to file a response to the state prosecutors' proposal, and the Justice Department and the state prosecutors would also have time to respond within the next few weeks.

The Justice Department has already said it doesn't believe there's any need to extend the oversight period and that the agreement with Redmond has been working as designed. But state prosecutors from 10 states, including New York and California, and the District of Columbia, said they're concerned Microsoft's market share is still problematic for potential competitors and warrants additional oversight. Other states involved in the proceedings have opted to remain neutral.

 

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