WASHINGTON -- Unwavering in its insistence that Microsoft Corp. be split in two, the Justice Department won a surprise delay in its antitrust case against the software company while lawyers explore possible agreements on secondary issues.
A schedule approved Thursday by U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson requires the government to file legal papers Monday specifying areas of agreement. Microsoft has until Wednesday.
The moves provided a temporary breather just as tension mounted with a ruling appearing imminent. By Wednesday, the case once again could reach the stage where Jackson is ready to administer punishment for the anticompetitive practices he found in April.
Lead Justice Department attorney David Boies sought the delay in a conference call that included the judge and attorneys for the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant.
Explaining why the government sought another chance to brief the judge, Justice Department spokeswoman Gina Talamona said, ''We believed it was appropriate to request a short opportunity to comment on Microsoft's specific suggested changes -- both to determine whether there may be a few that we can accept without undermining our proposed remedy and also to offer our reasons for urging rejection of the others.''
Microsoft spokesman Jim Cullinan said the additional time was sought to address questions such as how to deal with foreign governments and how tax issues should be handled in any breakup. Microsoft already has said it will appeal the entire case.
In a transcript of the conference call, Boies said, ''And from a quick review, some number of those (issues raised by Microsoft) seem to make some sense to us, and we would like the opportunity to go through those in detail and to give the court our view on that.''
Boies said he would ''try to advise the court of our agreement and why we agree to them, and with respect to the points that we disagree with, try very briefly just to indicate the reasons we disagree.''
Microsoft lead attorney John Warden raised no objections to the additional filings.
Microsoft filed a legal brief Thursday that attacked the proposal of the Justice Department and 17 of the 19 states in the case to split Microsoft into two companies. There was no indication the government would compromise on the basic proposal.
Jackson ruled April 3 that Microsoft had illegally engaged in anticompetitive marketing practices. As a penalty, the Justice Department and 17 states said Microsoft should be split into two parts -- one that would develop and market the various Windows operating systems, and the other that would take possession of Microsoft Office software and the company's various Internet properties.
Microsoft's line-by-line editing and changes, if accepted by Jackson, would include very little government oversight over the new company governing Microsoft Office, and would not require the company to store and keep its internal e-mails, which were used to great effect by the government during the 78-day antitrust trial.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.