Microsoft tries to prevent foes from chiming in on case

Microsoft filed a brief with the U.S. District Court of Appeals late Monday, asking that nine of its competitors, including AOL and Oracle, not be allowed to file court briefs supporting the government's stand against the software giant. Microsoft says that the filings--called amicus briefs, or friend-of-the-court briefs--should be combined into a single document, because they would otherwise constitute an unfair amount of anti-Microsoft opinion. The appeals court had previously said that it would allow two amicus briefs, one supporting Microsoft's stand in the antitrust trial, and one supporting the government, which is seeking to break up the company.

"Although Microsoft is willing to consent to the filing of a single joint brief by entities supporting \[the government\], Microsoft opposes the motions seeking separate amicus participation," the company wrote in the brief filed Monday. "Microsoft’s competitors--acting in their own name or under the guise of various "trade associations"--should not be allowed to file multiple 25-page amicus briefs. If allowed to participate at all, these entities should be required to file a single joint brief, as they were 'strongly encouraged' to do by the Court’s October 11, 2000 Order. Any other outcome would be unfair to Microsoft and unduly burdensome for the Court."

Conversely, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a tiny, two-paragraph response to the amicus question, informing the appeals court that it should simply allow any filings that would be helpful to resolve the case. Surprisingly, there has been a groundswell of support for the government's position, while only two companies have come forward to support Microsoft. And these two companies are trade associations that are largely tied to the software giant already. Among the groups wishing to file briefs condemning Microsoft are industry titans AOL/Netscape, Sun Microsystems, and Oracle, as well as two trade organizations and several private citizens. Microsoft says that "private individuals with no particular interest in the case (or the software industry in general) ... should be denied" a chance to file briefs in the appellate phase of the case, "regardless of which side they support.

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