Microsoft trial back in court

Microsoft, DOJ will be back in court this week for the closing arguments in their case.

The Microsoft trial will be back in front of Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson on Tuesday, as each side presents its closing arguments.

Attorneys for both sides will sum up the arguments they've presented in the 11-month long trial, trying to convince the judge of the merits of their case. Each side gets two and a half hours to present its arguments, although some of that time can be reserved to rebut the other side's case. The DOJ will go first, then Microsoft, followed by any rebuttals. David Boies is expected to argue on behalf of the DOJ. Microsoft lead trial counsel John Warden will present on behalf of the company.

The government wouldn't comment on the contents of its arguments. Microsoft said it would argue that the government hasn't met the legal requirements to prove its claims, including the accusation that Microsoft harmed consumers. "Microsoft will focus on the government's utter failure to meet the legal burden necessary to prove its case," Microsoft spokesman Jim Cullinan said.

Closing arguments, like opening statements, are not considered evidence. Instead, they represent each side's perspective on how the judge should view evidence presented during trial.

The trial began in October, five months after the US DOJ and several state attorneys general sued Microsoft, charging that the company had illegally leveraged its dominant position in the operating systems market to move into other areas, such as the browser market. Throughout the trial, the DOJ has used internal Microsoft emails and some of the company's own witnesses to bolster its case. Microsoft, meanwhile, has presented company employees, partners and an economist to refute charges that it's a monopolist and that it's abused its power.

Tuesday's closing arguments are far from the ending of the case. Judge Jackson has a series of rulings to make, and appeals could drag the case out for years. Just last week, each side submitted the final draft of its proposed findings of fact, or what it considers to be the facts of the case. The judge will decide on those documents as early as next month, in a ruling that contains his judgment on what the facts of the case are (for example, he may rule that the facts find that Microsoft is a monopoly, or that it isn't).

Based on that ruling, each side will then submit its proposed conclusions of law, or how the facts stipulated by Judge Jackson should be interpreted through the lens of the law. Judge Jackson then will issue his ruling -- unless there's a settlement in the meantime.

Tuesday's closing arguments come as Microsoft is urging shareholders to contact US lawmakers on its behalf. In a letter to shareholders posted on its Web site Thursday, Microsoft COO Robert Herbold said Microsoft's competitors have been lobbying for more regulation, "without recognising how their actions could choke off innovation and threaten the continued vitality of our industry as a whole." The letter then leads to a Web site where people can register to get updates on Microsoft's political efforts and easily email lawmakers after locating them by zip code.

Microsoft appears to be getting a partial break from at least one European country. The French Finance Ministry said this week it hasn't found anything to warrant antitrust charges against the company so far, even though it's examining some consumer complaints.

Take me to the DoJ/Microsoft special.