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Local angle on Microsoft case

April 04, 2000
By: Michael Patrick Carney
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Even though a federal judge concluded Microsoft is a monopoly in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act, Missouri may not play a part for some time--if ever.

"We have been monitoring the situation. No decision has been made on whether to file a lawsuit," said Scott Holste, a spokesman for Attorney General Jay Nixon.

"Any theoretical timetable is impossible to make," he said.

In addition to finding violations of federal law, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson held Monday evening that the software manufacturer could be charged under antitrust statutes in nineteen states involved in the lawsuit.

The Windows operating system is designed to limit competition and is a vehicle for the restraint of free trade, Jackson concluded.

Under Missouri law, monopolistic restraint of free trade is a misdemeanor. Violators are subject to one year in jail and a $50,000 fine.

Holste was unsure if the verdict would apply to Missouri.

Even if Nixon decides to enter the fray, state law indicates he may not be able to prosecute a company already indicted by the federal government.

Some states are considering the following scenario: the Windows operating system is the means of monopoly, thus Microsoft restrained trade with each sale. The product of this equation is staggering.

But, Holste said, previous antitrust cases brought by Nixon "have been more global, more of an umbrella, rather than a situation based on each transaction."