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Microsoft seeks antitrust dismissals

The software giant on Friday hopes to reverse a series of legal setbacks before a Baltimore judge, whom it will ask to dismiss lawsuits by Sun and others.

Microsoft on Friday hopes to reverse a series of legal setbacks before a Baltimore judge, whom it will ask to dismiss three private antitrust cases pending against the software giant.

During a hearing before U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz, Microsoft will argue that cases brought by Be Inc., Burst.com and are without merit. Lawyers for the plaintiffs are expected to explain why the cases should be allowed to continue.

The cases largely draw on Microsoft's lengthy antitrust case, which effectively ended in November, with U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly approving a settlement agreed to by Microsoft, the Justice Department and nine states. Separately, the judge imposed a modified version of the settlement as her remedy in the case continued by nine other states and the District of Columbia.

Based on her decisions and the accompanying memorandum, many legal experts against Microsoft.

But Motz has taken a harsh view of Microsoft's business behavior. Two days before Christmas, the judge granted Sun its request for a preliminary injunction compelling Microsoft to carry Sun's version of the Java Virtual Machine in Windows. Microsoft's version of the JVM is based on 8-year-old Sun technology.

"I find it an absolute certainty that unless a preliminary injunction is entered, Sun will have lost forever its right to compete, and the opportunity to prevail, in a market undistorted by its competitor's antitrust violations," Motz wrote in the 42-page ruling.

Microsoft and Sun are scheduled to file submissions about the preliminary injunction by Monday.

The Java decision marks one of several setbacks suffered by Microsoft before Motz. In November, the judge allowed most of the facts found in the government's trial to be used in the case filed by Netscape. Use of the majority of U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's "findings of fact" could greatly benefit the Netscape lawsuit, say legal experts.

The government filed its case in May 1998, charging that Microsoft had used anticompetitive means to thwart Netscape's browser and Sun's Java language.

Motz delivered another setback to Microsoft in January 2002, when he rejected a controversial school settlement that would have given free Microsoft software to needy schools. The software maker cut the deal with attorneys representing more than 130 private antitrust cases brought on behalf of consumers. Some of those cases are still before Motz.

Another group of California cases, which received class-action status, is scheduled to go to trial next month.