While reading about Microsoft’s current court dealings, I couldn’t help but recall Shakespeare’s words. I’ll leave the judgment as to whether he was endorsing or cursing the legal profession for the reader to Google; to me, it is the later.
First, there is Burst.com — a firm that worked with Microsoft for two years (will people ever learn?) before being tossed aside like a dirty shirt. Soon thereafter, surprise!, Microsoft’s Media Player wouldn’t read their broadcasts (v7) and, later, seemed to incorporate their patents (v9).
In the most recent development in that 18-month-old case, a judge ordered Microsoft to find missing e-mails which could substantiate Burst.com’s claims, according to the Seattle PI (this is the most widely reported of the three cases).
Second, there’s the European Union (EU) case which I wrote about earlier this month. The Wall Street Journal reported that the three-day closed hearing will probably lead to Microsoft trying to settle as regulators prepare a formal decision. In five prior run-ins, the company and government regulators have settled.
This is related to Burst.com because the EU case deals with Windows Media Player as well as the company’s attempts to monopolize the market for low-end server operating systems. Microsoft has argued that the Media Player should not receive the same relief as that imposed for browsers in the U.S. case. Such a remedy, Microsoft said, would be the same as saying that Windows is an “essential facility,” (aka infrastructure good) like rail or utility lines.
“We’re being lied to”
Reportedly, Jeremy Allison, a software developer who co-created Samba, openly accused Microsoft of lying. Samba helps non-Windows computers connect to Windows servers; Allison introduced e-mail correspondance that documented Microsoft’s reluctance to provide information about Kerberos, which helps authenticate users.
Early this year, the WSJ reported, Microsoft had agreed in principle to supply this information in an attempt to forestall EU action.
According to the WSJ,
The commission says Microsoft’s gains are illegal under an EU law that forbids companies with a dominant position in a market from using certain business practices to bolster its dominance or expand it into new markets.
More patent problems
Finally, a jury awarded $62.3 million in damages to Imagexpo last week, concurring that Microsoft had encroached on the firm’s patents associated with Net Meeting’s whiteboard feature; this suit was also filed in 2002.
Microsoft began incorporating whiteboarding into Windows in 2001 as part of Instant Messenger. The company bought PlaceWare earlier this year for $200 million and subsequently introduced Live Meeting in September.
Microsoft says that the legal challenge had nothing to do with the purchase of PlaceWare or the phasing out of NetMeeting.