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New judge sets dates in Microsoft case

The new federal judge presiding over the government's antitrust case orders the parties to file briefs presenting the remaining issues by Sept. 14.

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  On what terms will Microsoft settle?
Emmett Stanton, antitrust lawyer, Fenwick & West
The new federal judge presiding over the government's landmark antitrust case against Microsoft issued an order Wednesday for the parties to file briefs presenting the remaining issues in the case by Sept. 14.

U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly also ordered government and Microsoft lawyers to appear for a status conference Sept. 21.

Earlier Wednesday morning, the U.S. Justice Department asked the court to quickly call a meeting to schedule the remaining proceedings in its case against Microsoft. In its motion, the government cited strong public interest in a "prompt and orderly resolution of the remaining issues in this case."

Microsoft confirmed that it had received an order filed by the court Tuesday directing the government and the software company to file a joint status report on the issues remaining that are awaiting the court's decision.

"We look forward to resolving the remaining issues in this case and will work with the government to respond to the court's order," Microsoft said in a statement Wednesday.

Time is critical for both parties with the launch date of Microsoft's newest operating system rapidly approaching. Microsoft hopes to delay a decision in the case long enough to avoid any legal action that would interfere with the release of Windows XP on Oct. 25.

The government's motion also noted that the lawyers for the plaintiffs are available "anytime during the next 10 days" except Sept. 5 and Sept. 7, indicating a willingness to slog through the Labor Day holiday.

In a legal brief filed earlier this month, government lawyers emphasized the importance of the upcoming launch of Windows XP, making it clear the new operating system's competitive aspects would be explored when the case moves forward.

In the past few weeks, proceedings in the case have seemed to be gathering speed. Last Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit returned the case to trial court for further proceedings. On the same day, a federal court randomly assigned Kollar-Kotelly to preside over the antitrust case. At the time, legal experts said the assignment of Kollar-Kotelly meant the case might move forward fairly quickly.

"There are very serious and time-consuming remedy issues to be worked out, and the government wants to get the thing going and disposed of," said Lawrence Sullivan, an antitrust expert at Southwestern University School of Law.

Sullivan added that although the government has not moved to enjoin the release of Windows XP, that doesn't mean it won't ask for relief that is relevant to how Microsoft may market the new operating system.