Microsoft begins counter-attack

 

Microsoft yesterday accused the US government of withholding key documents in its antitrust case that the software giant said suggested "a set-up" by the Justice Department and rival Netscape. In a motion filed with US District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson in Washington, Microsoft said the Justice Department should be sanctioned for failing to disclose the documents ahead of the start of the trial a week ago.

Microsoft complained about a June 23rd, 1995 letter from Netscape's lawyer Mr Gary Reback to the Justice Department following a formal request for information by the department's antitrust division. These documents were written just after the June 21st, 1995 meeting between Microsoft and Netscape executives that is at the heart of the government's case. The Justice Department contends that Microsoft proposed to "draw a line" between the two firms to divide the software market. Such an agreement would constitute a violation of US antitrust law.

But Microsoft maintained in the motion that the rapid responses by the government and Netscape "demonstrate quite clearly that the meeting was a `set-up' orchestrated by Netscape's counsel".

The motion concluded that "the occurrence of these events in rapid succession over the course of three days cannot be reconciled with anything other than a well-orchestrated campaign by Netscape to enlist the DOJ's help in its battle with Microsoft."

Microsoft is asking the government to reimburse it for the cost of preparing the motion and for an order from the court requiring all other similar documents to be released, as well as a sworn statement that all such documents had been produced.

The company said it had only received the documents targeted in its motion on Saturday, after the trial had been underway for four days.