The Justice Department’s case is seriously flawed and a federal appeals court should overturn a lower court’s ruling that Microsoft Corp. separate its Internet Explorer software from its Windows 95, Microsoft contends in new court filings.
In the latest move in the complex legal battle, Microsoft is arguing the Justice Department’s lawsuit last October was based on a misreading of a 1995 court agreement aimed at preventing the company from engaging in anti-competitive business practices.
Microsoft argued the 1995 agreement “explicitly preserves Microsoft’s freedom to develop ‘integrated products”’ such as blending Internet Explorer into Windows 95.
“The principle at stake in this case is whether Microsoft - and every other software company - has the right to continually improve its products and add new innovations for consumers,” Robert Herbold, Microsoft’s chief operating officer, said in a statement Thursday.
The assertion came in a 51-page brief Microsoft filed with the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The company is asking the panel to overturn a Dec. 11 preliminary injunction by U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson that ordered separation of Internet Explorer from Windows 95.
Jackson’s ruling stemmed from a Justice Department lawsuit that seeks to prevent Microsoft from using its dominance in the Windows 95 operating system to gain market share for its Internet Explorer program, which allows computer users to view the Internet.
Last week, Microsoft and the Justice Department reached a settlement involving one aspect of the legal battle: whether Microsoft should be held in contempt of court for its response to the judge’s Dec. 11 order. In that settlement, Microsoft agreed to let computer makers remove the easy access to the Internet Explorer program.
But that settlement didn’t affect the underlying legal issues in the antitrust case or the related appeal. Oral arguments on the appeal are scheduled for April 21.
In a related matter, the Senate Judiciary Committee has asked Microsoft to voluntarily turn over documents as part if its continuing investigation of antitrust issues and electronic commerce.
“They are definitely investigating Microsoft,” said Tony Williams, chief of staff to Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash. “They are meeting with Microsoft. They are talking with them about antitrust matters.” Microsoft had no immediate comment.