US govt abandons states' case against Microsoft

The US Department of Justice has notified an appeals court that it will not intervene in an antitrust case against Microsoft.

The US Department of Justice has notified an appeals court that it will not intervene in an antitrust case against Microsoft.

Last week, the department notified the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that it would not file a "friend of the court" brief in the antitrust case Massachusetts and West Virginia have against Microsoft.

The two states want tougher antitrust penalties than imposed by judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly and approved by the Justice Department.

The lack of a Justice Department position in the case means less potential opposition for the two states' appeal of the Kollar-Kotelly decision, but a spokeswoman at the Massachusetts Attorney General's office declined to comment on the Justice Department's decision.

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to speculate on what the agency's decision might mean to the two states. "It's not our case," she said, explaining the reason for the decision. "We're not a part of it."

Microsoft spokesman Jim Desler had no comment on the Justice Department's decision, although he noted that it had supported the Kollar-Kotelly antitrust sanctions.

"We've been working very closely with the Department of Justice to ensure that all aspects of the consent decree are being followed," Desler said. "What we have in place is a thorough and tough consent decree that is ultimately good for the industry."

Grant Gross writes for IDG News Service

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