Microsoft Stresses Need to Protect Freedom to Innovate In Appeals Court Presentations

Microsoft Stresses Need to Protect Freedom to Innovate In Appeals Court Presentations

REDMOND, Wash., April 21, 1998 — Microsoft Corp. Tuesday urged a federal Appeals Court panel to protect the freedom of American software companies to innovate, by overturning a controversial preliminary injunction issued last December.

“We believe there’s a fundamental principle at stake in this case. We’re standing up to protect the freedom of every software company to innovate and continually improve their products for consumers,”
said William H. Neukom, Microsoft senior vice president for law and corporate affairs.

Tuesday’s hearing focused on Microsoft’s petition to overturn a preliminary injunction against the company issued in December 1997 by Federal District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson. The preliminary injunction ordered Microsoft to provide personal computer manufacturers with the option of licensing Microsoft’s Windows 95 operating system with the Internet Explorer icon and other means of consumer access to the browser hidden.

“We believe the preliminary injunction issued by the Court would set a very dangerous precedent, by injecting government regulation into software product design,”
Neukom said.
“We think consumers and the free market should decide what features should go into a software product, not government regulations. If the government tries to regulate complex issues of software product design, it will be bad for consumers, bad for innovation, and bad for the future of the US software industry.”

The case stems from a complaint brought by the Department of Justice in October 1997, alleging that the software company had violated the terms of a 1995 consent decree by combining the company’s Internet Explorer browser software with its Windows 95 operating system. The Justice Department alleged that the browser was a separate product, and that Microsoft was illegally tying the browser to Windows 95 in licenses with computer manufacturers.

Microsoft denies the Department’s accusations, and points out that Internet Explorer has been an integrated feature in Windows 95 since the first copies of the operating system were shipped to computer makers in July 1995. Microsoft also notes that hundreds of independent software developers are making use of the browser components within the operating system to enhance their own programs.

“This is a straightforward contract case, and Microsoft has complied fully with the contract,”
Neukom said.
“Protecting the freedom to innovate was a critical element of the 1995 consent decree. The consent decree specifically allows Microsoft to integrate new features and new capabilities into our products.”

Microsoft has complied with the December preliminary injunction while the issue has been on appeal, but no computer manufacturers appear to have taken the option of shipping the partially disabled product.

Microsoft also urged the court to refuse the trial court’s referral of the case to a special master. The company argued that such wholesale delegation of the judicial authority of the federal court was impermissible under the federal rules.

Following oral arguments by Microsoft and the Department of Justice Tuesday morning, the Appeals Court panel of three judges took the issues under advisement and gave no indication of how soon it might enter its opinion on this expedited appeal.

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