States Petition Federal Judge to Extend Microsoft Antitrust Oversight

When the US Dept. of Justice and the New York State Attorney General's office on August 31 issued their joint status report, along with Microsoft, on the progress of its antitrust oversight, they acknowledged that period is due to expire this November. But in a statement, the DOJ said it would petition to extend its oversight period for another two years until late 2009, at least with regard to its protocol licensing operation if not the entire company. Microsoft agreed to that extension, the statement added.

Now, in a petition before US District Judge Kathleen Kollar-Kotelly, the State of California, along with five other states and the District of Columbia, said they would ask US District Judge Kollar-Kotelly to extend all the provisions of government oversight to 2012, in a status meeting scheduled for today.

Under the terms of the original DOJ/Microsoft settlement, state and federal governments would have the right to petition to extend the oversight period to 2012...in 2009, assuming the 2007 period was already extended. Since Microsoft does not appear to be objecting, that first extension appears likely.

With a critical decision on Microsoft's recent competitive conduct from Europe's Court of First Instance due on Monday, Microsoft wants to be seen as cooperating with governments for fairness and interoperability, especially if it can avoid more potent regulation from government bodies.

Representatives of the European Commission have claimed the right to order a breakup of Microsoft if the Court of First Instance concludes Microsoft acted to deceive or circumvent the EC in its handling of its original antitrust Statement of Objections. At best, such an order would restrict Microsoft to being able to conduct business in Europe as several companies rather than as one.

So it is important that Microsoft be perceived as cooperating, which is why a government lawyer's account - according to the Associated Press - that Windows Vista was tested by its experts and found to be compliant with the settlement order, is very welcome news for the company. Representing the State of California, attorney Andrew Houck reportedly did not argue with the government's findings on Vista, but said a long-term extension of the oversight period was necessary in order to guarantee Microsoft maintains its good conduct.

By late afternoon, the US District Court for D.C. had yet to issue a statement or formal notice on today's status hearing.

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