New allies argue for DOJ to lay off Microsoft

Microsoft has found allies willing to argue against further antitrust oversight, though these new allies have attracted their own share of scrutiny.

Financial transaction processing giant Visa and paper products producer Weyerhaeuser filed amicus briefs on behalf of Microsoft earlier this month, asking a federal court to allow the US Justice Dept.'s oversight period over Microsoft's business activities to lapse.

Extending the oversight period without "sufficient cause," the companies argued, could serve as a basis for future companies to use the judgment as a way to prolong antitrust cases in the future.

Several states including California and New York have asked a federal court to extend the US Justice Dept.'s oversight period over Microsoft through 2012, as they feel Microsoft has not made sufficient progress in addressing some of its antitrust issues.

Visa has had some history with antitrust concerns -- and litigation -- through its dealings and arrangements with MasterCard. On the other hand, Weyerhaeuser is the of the largest pulp and paper companies in the world and is also familiar with the antitrust spotlight.

US District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly has temporarily extended oversight past the original early November deadline until January, so that she could hear further arguments on the matter. Kollar-Kotelly has not yet ruled whether she would consider Visa or Weyerhaeuser's arguments.

The two company's lawyers say that they have no direct interest in Microsoft itself. However, they do have an interest in the judge's final ruling as it could end up eventually affecting their own businesses.

They argue that once a judgment has been reached and a deadline set, you cannot extend it without sufficient evidence to support the claims. The two companies argue that the states lack that in their request for an extension.

Experts aren't sure that extending the antitrust oversight of Microsoft would have much effect on the outcomes of future litigation on the subject. University of San Diego law professor David McGowan told MarketWatch Thursday that few companies have the control over their sectors like Microsoft has on the PC market.

"I don't know how many companies are going to be in the position Microsoft is in," he said.

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