US Report: Netscape lobbyist attacks Microsoft

Robert Bork, the former solicitor general who is now a paid lobbyist for Netscape, says the antitrust case against Microsoft is "rock solid."

In a white paper circulated Wednesday by Netscape, Bork said the lawsuit brought by the Justice Department and 20 states takes aim at a monopolist's attempt "to preserve its monopoly by destroying a potential rival." On Tuesday, Microsoft filed a countersuit, making its first official reply to the lawsuit, and rejected the charges as baseless.

However, Bork, a jurist whose nomination to the Supreme Court was defeated in a Senate committee vote, said Microsoft was clearly a monopolist and had engaged in exclusionary practices. "An analogy would be the owner of a toll bridge, which is the only bridge across a river, paying the owner of land to deny access to a site where a competitive bridge is partly built," he wrote.

Bork, whose paper ran longer than 7,000 words, reached back into history for legal precedent as he issued a stinging denunciation of the software giant. "But for Microsoft's interference, the market would be much more dynamic as new technologies and fresh innovations challenged the company's present dominance," he wrote. "To argue, as Microsoft does, that computer manufacturers have a choice from a wide array of competing operating systems is to ignore reality."

Bork also raised another red flag as he described a "complex web of restrictive agreements" to undercut rival distributors of Internet browsers.

He said Microsoft had failed to defeat Netscape in the open market and had been forced to bundle its Internet Explorer browser with its "monopoly operating system first in Windows 95 and now Windows 98 so that computer manufacturers are forced to take both in one package".

"If Microsoft is successful in this predation, and in its attacks on Sun's Java, Microsoft will retain its operating system monopoly and be well on the way to achieving its goals of becoming the only gateway to the Internet and spreading its power to other markets," he wrote. "This is what is at stake in the government's antitrust case against Microsoft."

A spokesman for Microsoft was not immediately available for comment.