RealTime IT News

Microsoft, RealNetworks Spat Stays Put

The antitrust lawsuit brought by RealNetworks against Microsoft is staying in the Silicon Valley, a judge ruled on Thursday, despite a plea by the software giant to move it up to Washington.

In December 2003, RealNetworks filed a suit in federal court in San Jose, Calif. charging that Microsoft used its Windows monopoly in order to limit choice in digital media players, hurting distribution for its own RealPlayer. The argument mirrors one of the charges that a commission of the European Union has been mulling for four years. That commission is expected to release its final ruling next week.

"We think it's the right decision," said RealNetworks spokesperson Greg Chiemingo. RealNetworks filed the suit in San Jose because it plans to call a wide variety of witnesses from companies located there.

The witnesslist "literally runs the full spectrum from the people who make PCs all the way to the people who make the content we enjoy on PCs," he said.

Companies on the RealNetworks witness short list include Sun Microsystems and Apple Computer , Chiemingo said.

Microsoft did not respond to repeated requests to comment on the issue.

According to RealNetworks' complaint, Microsoft "has pursued a broad course of predatory conduct over a period of years by abusing its monopoly power, resulting in substantial lost revenue and business for RealNetworks." The RealPlayer includes the Rhapsody paid music download service, one of the contenders for what many analysts think will be the next big moneymaker for technology companies.

RealNetworks said it hopes for damages that could exceed $1 billion, plus an injunction against Microsoft; it's prepared to spend around $12 million pursuing the claim.

"We look forward to presenting our case before a jury with expert witnesses," Chiemingo said. He said his Seattle, Wash.-based company filed its suit in California, rather than Washington, because most of the witnesses it wanted to call are in Silicon Valley. "We believe the jury will benefit greatly from hearing the people testify in person rather than through a videotaped deposition."

While plaintiffs and defendants must appear in person, the courts grant a lot of leeway to witnesses. One of the fundamental issues in an antitrust case is defining the market, Chiemingo said, "and the way to define it is through those third-party witnesses."