Greed sunk Bristol in antitrust case

According to a report in the National Law Journal, it was internal email that cost Bristol Technology in its antitrust case against Microsoft Corporation. The tiny Connecticut company, which sells a UNIX-to-Windows bridge program called Wind/U, sued Microsoft for pushing it out of the market by raising the price of the source code to Windows NT, which it needs to create its product.

But Bristol's case was doomed from the start: the jury described the company's claims against Microsoft as "weak," stating that the company had never established a relevant market anyway, therefore voiding its claims that Microsoft's "monopoly" shut it out. Bristol's claims for the market were derided as "not credible" as their estimation of said market jumped dramatically once the case was announced. But that wasn't what damned tiny Bristol. No, that task was accomplished by its own internal email, email that shows the company's principles to be greedy and predatory, hoping to cash in on Microsoft's other legal problems.

And what wonderful emails they are. For example, CEO Keith Blackwell received an email version of the company's business strategy from an underling, which is summed up by the email subject, "We sue Microsoft for money." This "business plan," which Blackwell circulated to others at Bristol, relied on Microsoft settling or losing the antitrust court case Bristol would launch. Another email describes how the company spent $75,000 bad-mouthing Microsoft in the press in the days leading up to the antitrust suit. This email, which was titled "David v. Goliath Strategic Communications Game Plan," was pushed by Bristol co-founder Jean Blackwell (Keith's wife), who suggested in her own email that the company "EXTEND THE STORY, INCREASE THE PAIN" (her emphasis). Bristol's plan was to get about $250 million out of Microsoft. Most amazingly, the Blackwells stood to receive about $200 million of the total. To put these amounts in perspective, Bristol's sales in 1998 were only $8 million.

"The whole scenario was kind of disgusting," said one juror. The jury awarded Bristol exactly $1 for its claims under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act, an obvious slap in the face.

You just couldn't make this stuff up.

"It was very damaging," one juror told the National Law Journal, in a sudden burst of understatement. "They appeared to be greedy and not too smart, to put certain things in e-mails and leave them on the system, basically."

"I didn't think Microsoft should have been punished for having a good product," a juror concluded

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