U.S. OKs Expiration of Microsoft Antitrust Deal

At court hearing, DOJ and state attorneys pass on their last chance to challenge May 12 deadline.
Attorneys for the Department of Justice and several states told a judge on Wednesday that they would not raise any objections to next month's expiration of Microsoft's decade-old antitrust settlement with the U.S government.

The plaintiffs' attorneys told U.S. DC District Court judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly that they believed Microsoft has met the terms of the settlement, which mainly required the company to share Windows APIs and other key technical information with the broader tech industry and provide licenses on reasonable terms.

"We are pleased with today's hearing. As was noted by the Court and the plaintiffs, we are on track for the Final Judgments to expire on May 12," said a Microsoft spokesperson.

Wednesday's hearing was effectively the last chance for the DOJ or the states, which included California, New York, Massachusetts, and 14 others that sued Microsoft, as well as the District of Columbia, to raise objections to the May 12 expiration. "Had they thought there was a problem, they could have moved to extend it further," said a source connected to the case.

In a brief filed prior to the hearing, the plaintiffs said Microsoft "has met the goals of the wind-down plan." The May 12 expiration will now kick in automatically, as no further court hearings are planned.

The settlement's expiration isn't likely to have any immediate impact on Microsoft's product portfolio, and the company has stated that it plans to comply with most of its terms beyond May 12.

But the fact that it no longer has to devote significant time and management resources to documenting its compliance should at the very least allow the company to make decisions more quickly and efficiently—which is crucial as it comes under increased competitive pressure from Apple, Google, and other rivals.

Former Microsoft senior VP Bob Muglia, head of the company's Server and Tools unit, had been heading the compliance effort, and more than 400 staffers were devoted to providing technical documentation to regulators, as required by the agreement.

Concerned that Microsoft was using its dominance of the desktop to reap unfair advantages in other tech segments, the U.S. originally sued Microsoft in 1998 under the Sherman Antitrust Act. The settlement was struck in November, 2001.