Chillin'Competition

Relaxing whilst doing Competition Law is not an Oxymoron

The end of the US Microsoft case

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13 years ago the US Department of Justice together with several States filed a suit against Microsoft that marked the beginning of what still remains as the most significant case in contemporary antitrust, and one that led to many changes in the way we approach high-tech markets, and antitrust enforcement in general.

The history of the US v. Microsoft antitrust battles is too rich in details to be summarized here, but those interested in a great brief explanation should watch this video in which Phil Malone (who was one of the leading prosecutors for the Antitrust Division -and also my Professor at Harvard Law School- makes this long story short). 

But now more than ever, all of that pertains to history. The oversight mandated by the 2001 settlement (reached right after the DC Circuit Corut reversed part of the District Corut´s decision which had ruled for the Governmment) will expire on May 12th. However, the last oversight hearing before Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly occurred on April 27th and marks, in practice, the end of the story. In the words of Judge Kollar-Kotelly, the effective end of the Microsoft case “will close an important chapter in the history of antitrust law“.

I missed this in the selection of news that had taken place during our days off, and I have, very rightly, been “reprehended” for this omission by Craig Farringer, Assistant Attorney General for the District of Columbia, and one of the members of the so-called “California Group”.  (as some of you will recall, several States decided in November of 2001 that they did not want to accept the settlement proposed by Microsoft; this lead to a full evidentiary remedy hearing which resulted in the California Group Final Judgment).  Craig Farringer (who also had extremely nice words for this blog, for which we´re grateful) has sent us a picture of some California Group lawyers and experts taken moments after the status conference outside the Prettyman courthouse in Washington. Here it is:

 (Pictured from left to right is Adam Miller of California, the now famous technical expert Craig Hunt, Layne Lindebak of Iowa, Stephen Houck (who signed the original complaint lodged by the States in 1998), economics expert Chuck Clarke, and Craig Farringer).

Our congratulations to all those who worked on the case, be it for the DOJ, for the States, for Microsoft or for other third parties involved in the case.

And, by the way, on this side of the Atlantic the General Court has scheduled for May 24th the hearing on Microsoft’s appeal against the Commission´s findings of non-compliance with the 2004 decision, which led to an additional 899 million euro fine.

Written by Alfonso Lamadrid

2 May 2011 at 4:20 pm

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