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Largest software group sides with DoJ

The Software and Information Industries Association says it will file a brief supporting the DoJ's position that Microsoft holds a monopoly

The computer industry's largest trade group will side with the Justice Department in its antitrust case against Microsoft over the software maker's strong objections, members said.

The Justice Department asked the Software and Information Industries Association to file a brief Monday in the final stage of the trial, and its board voted last week to do so despite its largest member's protests, two members said. Ten of 19 board members abstained or did not participate in the contentious vote, a third member said.

The friend-of-the-court filings were requested by US District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson. Microsoft invited a brief in its defence from a trade group with which it is closely tied, the Association for Competitive Technology, which was filed yesterday. The 19 states allied with the Justice Department in the case are also expected to file.

The most closely watched of these filings, though, will be from Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard University expert in Internet law, whose brief was requested by Judge Jackson himself. In his December 20 order asking for the briefs, he said he was seeking the brief because Dr. Lessig was "uniquely qualified" on the issues in the case, suggesting it may be given greater weight than those of the other parties.

Dr. Lessig is expected to address the issue of "technological tying," which is at the core of the government's claims against Microsoft. A federal appeals court handed Microsoft a victory on this score in a related case in June 1998.

The filing by the big software-industry trade group is expected to tell the court that Microsoft has an enduring monopoly in desktop personal-computer software, one that isn't seriously threatened by the new technologies and products Microsoft has cited in earlier filings. The group counts among its members most major software and information companies.

The filing by the states is expected to be written by Robert Bork, a conservative former appeals-court judge and antitrust scholar who has been a strong supporter of the government's case.

But the brief filed in support of Microsoft Monday blew away the competition, at least in the number and distinction of the lawyers who signed it. They were a bipartisan group including two former US attorneys general, Nicholas Katzenbach and Griffin Bell, and two past White House counsels, Lloyd Cutler and C. Boyden Gray.

The filing said that the antitrust laws encourage a holder of a "lawfully acquired monopoly" to compete aggressively and that Microsoft didn't attempt to monopolise the Internet-browser market. "Microsoft gained a competitive position in the browser market by competing aggressively on quality and price," it said.

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