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  Judge Rejects Microsoft Request

By Rajiv Chandrasekaran
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 18, 1998; Page F03

A federal judge yesterday rejected a request from Microsoft Corp. to limit the scope of evidence that government lawyers can present in the upcoming trial of an antitrust suit against the company.

Microsoft had urged U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson to prevent the Justice Department and 20 state attorneys general from introducing details of meetings between Microsoft executives and officials at Intel Corp., Apple Computer Inc., Sun Microsystems Inc. and Real Networks Inc.

Microsoft's lawyers called the evidence "extraneous" to the government's case, which alleges that the company is illegally trying to monopolize the market for Internet browsing software.

Government lawyers, however, contend that the meetings demonstrate a pattern in which Microsoft has used its market clout to force companies to abandon projects deemed competitive to the software giant.

Jackson yesterday said that he was "not going to exclude any issues at this point." Instead, the judge said he would rule on Microsoft's objections on a point-by-point basis when the trial begins on Oct. 15.

Demonstrating a pattern of anti-competitive behavior could help government lawyers bolster a key allegation in their case, that Microsoft attempted in a June 1995 meeting to persuade rival Netscape Communications Corp. to divide the market for Internet browsing software instead of competing.

"We don't think this is an appropriate time to determine what should be in and what should come out," lawyer Stephen Houck, who is representing the states, told Jackson.

Microsoft argued that the government is inappropriately trying to broaden its case in the weeks before the trial. "We've got a limited amount of time left . . . and it would be easier for everybody if we don't have to chase down what turn out to be ghosts," said Microsoft lawyer John Warden.

Jackson's decision is the latest pretrial setback for Microsoft. Earlier this week, the judge rejected a request from the company to dismiss the lawsuit.

Last week, he denied a bid by Microsoft lawyers to delay the trial indefinitely. And two weeks ago, Jackson ordered Microsoft, over its objections, to hand over records of contacts between the company and executives at Intel and Apple.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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