United States v. Microsoft Corporation, Civil Action No. 98-1232 (TPJ) (D. D.C. 9/14/1998), Civil Action No. 98-1232 (TPJ).

CourtUnited States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
PartiesUNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff, v. MICROSOFT CORPORATION, Defendant. STATE OF NEW YORK, ex rel. Attorney General DENNIS C. VACCO, et al., Plaintiffs and Counterclaim-Defendants, v. MICROSOFT CORPORATION, Defendant and Counterclaim Plaintiff.
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 98-1232 (TPJ).,No. 98-1233 (TPJ).,98-1233 (TPJ).
Decision Date14 September 1998


On May 18, 1998, in separate actions, the United States Department of Justice ("U.S." or "DOJ") and twenty states' Attorneys General (the "States")1 filed complaints against Microsoft Corporation ("Microsoft"), alleging violations of federal and numerous state antitrust statutes. The DOJ and the States also applied separately for preliminary injunctive relief to prevent irreparable harm to competition in an alleged market for Internet browsers and to potential competition in the market for personal computer ("PC") operating systems. The Court consolidated the cases pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 42(a) and advanced and consolidated the trial of both actions on the merits with the hearing of plaintiffs' preliminary injunction applications, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 65(a)(2). The hearing/trial is scheduled to begin on September 23, 1998.

The complaints allege essentially the same antitrust violations, namely, that Microsoft: (1) unreasonably restrained competition by "tying" its Internet browser to Windows 98; (2) unreasonably restrained competition by entering into "exclusive dealing" arrangements with various Internet providers; (3) unreasonably restrained competition by imposing "boot and start-up screen" restrictions on original equipment manufacturers ("OEMs"); (4) illegally maintained a monopoly in its operating system software through various exclusionary and predatory practices, including, but not limited to, the tying and exclusive dealing arrangements; and (5) attempted to monopolize the market for Internet browsers. The States bring a separate claim of monopoly "leveraging," arguing, inter alia, that Microsoft has unlawfully used its operating system monopoly to obtain a competitive advantage in the browser market. Each state also brings a pendent claim alleging violations of its respective state's antitrust laws.

The U.S. and the plaintiff States seek virtually the same relief, namely, that the Court enjoin Microsoft from: (1) entering into or enforcing certain contractual provisions which allegedly foreclose distribution and/or promotion of competing Internet browsers; (2) distributing a "bundled" version of its operating system and browser unless Microsoft provides a practical way of removing browser functions and provides OEMs that do not wish to license the browser an appropriate deduction from the royalty fee; (3) distributing a "bundled" version of its operating system and browser unless Microsoft treats Netscape Corporation's ("Netscape") browser the same as its own with respect to inclusion and removal; and (4) retaliating against any OEM that chooses to remove Microsoft's browser from Windows 98.

Microsoft denies the allegations, and moves for summary judgment on all counts. The Court finds sufficient material facts to be in dispute to preclude the entry of summary judgment on all but one of plaintiffs' claims. Because the theory of "monopoly leveraging" is inconsistent with both the Sherman Act's plain text and with Supreme Court pronouncements on the general limitations of its reach, the Court will grant summary judgment in favor of Microsoft on the States' Third Claim for Relief. See States' First Am. Compl. at 26. In all other respects the motion will be denied.


A microprocessor2 is the "brain" of the PC. Most of the world's PCs run on the "x86/Pentium" class of microprocessor, originally designed by Intel Corporation. In addition to the processor, the PC consists of a number of other components, including various hardware devices (e.g., disk drives) and the operating system.

The operating system ("OS") is the "command center" of the personal computer. It controls the interaction between the processor, memory, peripheral devices such as keyboards, screens, disk drives, and printers. Independent software vendors ("ISVs") write software application programs (such as word processors, games, etc.) that rely on certain general functions embedded in the OS. Applications software does this by using (or "calling on") the OS's application programming interfaces ("APIs"). Because those functions reside on the OS, ISVs do not have to write them into every software application they develop.

In 1980, Microsoft licensed from another company a PC operating system which it modified and introduced in 1981 as the "Microsoft Disk Operating System" ("MS-DOS"). When IBM entered the PC market in 1981, it selected MS-DOS as its operating system. As a result, MS-DOS enjoyed enormous sales and eventually commanded a dominant share of the market.

In 1985, Microsoft introduced a product called "Windows." Originally, Windows was a "shell," which acted as a graphical interface between the user and the MS-DOS operating system, permitting the user to perform functions by pointing and clicking with his mouse, rather than by typing text. Windows and MS-DOS were originally offered and sold separately, but Microsoft combined the underlying operating system with the graphical user interface in "Windows 95," presently the most widely-used PC operating system in the world.

The Internet is a global network that links smaller networks of computers. The World Wide Web ("Web") is the fastest-growing part of the Internet, composed of multimedia "pages" written in Hypertext Markup Language ("HTML") and connected to other pages by hypertext links. "Browsers" are specialized software programs that allow PC users to locate, access, and display content and applications located on the Web, by, among other things, "translating" HTML into an intelligible format for the user.

Consumers most often obtain their browsers as preinstalled software from their OEMs or via downloads from their Internet Access Providers ("IAPs"). IAPs provide users with telephone numbers and software that their computers use to access the Web. There are two types of IAPs: (1) Online Service Providers ("OLSs") (e.g., America Online, Prodigy, CompuServe, Microsoft Network) offer a full range of online services in addition to Web access, including e-mail, news, entertainment, and places to "meet" people with similar interests; and (2) Internet Service Providers ("ISPs") (e.g., AT&T Worldnet, Mindspring, Netcom) offer a cheaper, more "bare bones" package, including e-mail, Web access, and basic software.

On July 15, 1994, the U.S. commenced an action against Microsoft under Section 2 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. § 2 ("§ 2"). The complaint alleged, among other things, that Microsoft had entered into anticompetitive agreements and engaged in unlawful marketing practices directed at OEMs. The effect of those practices, the DOJ alleged, was unlawfully to maintain Microsoft's monopoly in the PC operating system market.

Microsoft ultimately consented to the entry of a "Final Judgment" (or "Consent Decree"), which the Court entered on August 21, 1995. The Consent Decree prohibited Microsoft from continuing the challenged practices and from engaging in other anticompetitive behavior.

On October 20, 1997, the U.S. petitioned the Court for an order to show cause why Microsoft should not be found in civil contempt for violating the terms of the Consent Decree by requiring OEMs to license and distribute Microsoft's Internet browser ("Internet Explorer" or "IE") as a condition of obtaining a license for Microsoft's Windows 95 operating system. On December 11, 1997, the Court declined to hold Microsoft in contempt, but preliminarily enjoined the company from continuing the challenged licensing practices. See United States v. Microsoft Corp., 980 F. Supp. 537 (D.D.C. 1997).

Microsoft appealed the December 11 Order. The D.C. Circuit reversed and remanded, holding that the Court "erred procedurally in entering a preliminary injunction without notice to Microsoft and substantively in its implicit construction of the consent decree on which the preliminary injunction rested." See United States v. Microsoft Corp., 147 F.3d 935, 938 (D.C. Cir. 1998) ("Microsoft"). The D.C. Circuit also granted Microsoft's application for a writ of mandamus revoking the Court's reference of certain matters to a special master. See id.

The Court of Appeals "tentatively" concluded that Windows 95/IE is a permissible "integrated product" under the applicable terms of the Consent Decree. Id. at 953. An "integrated product," the court held, is one "that combines functionalities (which may also be marketed separately and operated together) in a way that offers advantages unavailable if the functionalities are bought separately and combined by the purchaser." Id. at 948. The D.C. Circuit concluded that Microsoft had "clearly met the burden of ascribing facially plausible benefits to its integrated design as compared to an operating system combined with a stand-alone browser," id. at 950, but left the issue to be finally decided based "on a more complete record." Id. at 952.


Plaintiffs contend, and for present purposes, the Court must assume, that Microsoft enjoys a monopoly in the market for operating systems that are compatible with Intel x86/Pentium microprocessors.3 According to the DOJ's economic expert, between 1991 and 1997, Microsoft's share of that market held consistently at approximately 90%. See Declaration of David S. Sibley4 ("Sibley Decl.") ¶ 14 (citing International Data Corp., Operating Environments, Review and Forecast 1996-2001 (1997)). Several OEMs, including Packard Bell, Hewlett Packard, Micron, and Gateway, have expressed their belief that they have no commercially reasonable alternative to Microsoft's operating system. Plaintiffs...

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