The stakes of the battle in Washington federal court between Bill Gates and Joel Klein ( deputy attorney general at the antitrust office of the Department of Justice) far exceeds the fate of Microsoft or the sharing of the browser market.
In ruling the government’s charge of monopoly practices against Microsoft to be valid, Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson rejected the popular theory that the «new economy», born of ongoing technological revolutions, creates a radically different capitalist order from that in which live Western industrial societies since the xix th century.
Antitrust in the United States
This theory is invoked by Microsoft’s lawyers to argue that antitrust law (the Sherman Act, voted in 1890) can not apply to high-tech industries, and the government must (and can not) have any role in controlling the markets of this «new economy». For Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, there is no fundamental difference between Bill Gates and John D. Rockefeller, between Microsoft and Standard Oil.
In March 2003, SCO Group undertakes a lawsuit against IBM, claiming that IBM illegally incorporated elements patented by SCO Group from the source code from UNIX to Linux.
These allegations (and the relative uncertainty about the outcome of the trial) called into question the legality of the Linux kernel with respect to copyright. However, on 4 March 2004, an internal email SCO details how Microsoft has provided $ 106 million through BayStar and other means.
Blake Stowell of SCO confirmed the authenticity of this email. BayStar claimed that the deal had been suggested by Microsoft, but the money did not come from them directly.
In addition to BayStar’s involvement, Microsoft paid SCO $ 6 million in May 2003 for a «Unix and Unix-Patent» license, despite the limited number of Unix patents owned by SCO. This agreement was widely seen by the press as a boost to SCO’s finances in its lawsuit against IBM, with the aim of discrediting Linux.
In 2003, Microsoft lost the Eolas group against infringement and was sentenced to 521 million fine.
In the monthAugust 2003, Microsoft was sentenced to pay $ 521 million in compensation to the University of California and the company Eolas for illegal exploitation of a patent on plug-ins and affecting the display of web pages.
Wednesday January 14, 2004 Judge Zagel not only confirmed this judgment, but also awarded Eolas nearly $ 45 million in compensation pending the end of the legal proceedings. He also granted an injunction against Eolas any future sale of the Web Explorer (IE) that exploit the patent 906.
«Internet browsing may change»
However, this decision taken at the federal level will become enforceable only if Microsoft decides not to appeal. But the financial stakes are such that the publisher should not stop there. According to a spokesman for Microsoft, quoted by the Associated Press, the US giant should, within thirty days to bring the case before a federal court of appeal in Washington, DC, and specializing in the law of patents and intellectual property. «The publisher had already announced a substantial change in the functionality of its Internet browser for the beginning of 2004».
In fact, the stakes of the Eolas affair go beyond the interests of Microsoft and could, in the event of a definitive conviction by the publisher, significantly affect Internet browsing. Aware of the problem, the W3C (the consortium that defines the technological standards of the web) has come out of its reserve, the October 29, 2003, by asking the US Patent Office for a re-examination of the validity of the 906 patent .
In support of its request, Microsoft sent «prior art evidence» highlighting, according to this organization, the invalidity of the patent. In a letter sent to the US Administration, Tim Berners-Lee was determined «to eradicate (by re-examining the 906 patent ), an unfair obstacle to the proper functioning of the web».
In March 2005, Microsoft wins against Embedded Objects Linked Across Systems (Eolas) University of California on appeal.