Appeals Court to Get Microsoft Case

A federal appeals court will be the next stop for the Justice Department and Microsoft Corp. in their landmark antitrust battle that has spanned more than 18 months.

Late Tuesday, the court agreed to take the case while federal antitrust regulators were still jockeying to have the issue sent before the U.S. Supreme Court.

To petition the court, Justice would invoke a little used federal law that allows judges to ask the nation’s highest court to take such cases. However, the Supreme Court would be under no obligation to take the case and legal experts have continually expressed doubts that the strategy would pay off.

The Justice Department move came right after Microsoft filed its notice of appeal and voiced confidence that the appeals court, which already has sided with the company in earlier decisions, would rule in its favor.

“Microsoft is looking forward to the next phase of this case, and we are optimistic that the appellate courts will reverse the recent ruling,” Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer said in a statement.

The legal maneuvering began on Tuesday with Microsoft once again asking U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson for a stay of a raft of restrictions on its business conduct that he ordered last week as part of his final judgment.

Although Jackson said in his judgment that a breakup should be delayed until the end of the appeals process, he ordered the conduct remedies to take effect in 90 days.

Those conduct restrictions include forcing Microsoft to reveal more of the source code of its Windows operating system, allow computer makers to customize the look of Windows on their machines, and set public pricing guidelines for Windows.

Laying out its arguments in a 39-page document, Microsoft branded the measures as “draconian” and said they went far beyond the scope of the case, which dealt with the company’s battle over Internet browsing software.

Jackson had refused to decide whether to petition the Supreme Court to take the case until Microsoft formally files an appeal. That move also came late Tuesday.

Reuters news service contributed to this report.

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