DOJ: Microsoft is on its own

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Microsoft's legal troubles are far from over in the United States, and the company doesn't seem to have an ally in the next round of showdowns in the courtroom. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has decided it won't help the company in its battle to fight an appeal from West Virginia and Massachusetts.

In 2000, a federal court found Microsoft guilty of sweeping antitrust violations and ordered the company broken up. An appeals court threw out the breakup decision and gave the case back to the US District Court for the District of Columbia. In late 2001, the DOJ and nine of the states that sued Microsoft for illegally protecting its Windows monopoly settled with the company. The nonsettling states fought for tougher remedies, but in November 2002 Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly threw out most of their arguments and approved the settlement. Massachusetts and West Virginia decided to appeal Judge Kollar-Kotelly's decision.

In a letter last week, the DOJ disclosed that after reviewing the case, the agency has decided not to take part in the appeal. On November 4, the case is scheduled to resume for arguments before seven appellate judges. The DOJ's nonparticipation leaves the job of defending the settlement to Microsoft. The settlement's first compliance status report by the DOJ and the settling states, which is part of the settlement terms, is due on July 3.

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