Microsoft scored a key point in its legal tussle with the government Tuesday when US District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson suspended an order imposing tough sanctions on its business conduct.
But Jackson also granted a Justice Department request that Microsoft's appeal in the landmark antitrust case be sent directly to the US Supreme Court, bypassing the federal appellate court.
Legal analysts cautioned there was no assurance the high court, scheduled to recess at the end of the month, would take the case. They said it was more likely the justices would send the matter back to the federal appellate court here.
Microsoft is challenging Jackson's conclusion that it committed antitrust violations and that as a result it should be broken up into two competing entities and submit to sanctions on its business practices.
The breakup order had already been under a stay. But Jackson in a surprise move on Tuesday also suspended, pending appeal, the restrictions he had placed on Microsoft's relations with computer makers.
"It's a big win for Microsoft because the staying of the sanctions is very important to them -- to be able to operate business for the next year or year and a half without any restrictions," said Nicholas Economides, professor of economics at New York University's Stern School of Business.
"It's much more important than anything else."
In addition to ordering a breakup of Microsoft into two companies, one to develop operating systems, and another specializing in software applications such as Web browsing, Jackson on June 7th called for tough restrictions on Microsoft's dealings with computer manufacturers.
He ordered Microsoft to reveal much of the software code for its Windows operating systems, allow computer manufacturers to change the look of Windows on their PCs, and set public pricing guidelines for Windows.
The company warned in response that such a move would have a "devastating" effect on its ability to compete.
"We're obviously very pleased that the court ... decided to stay the entire judgment in the case pending appeal," said Microsoft spokesman Mark Murray.
"This is very good news because it means that our appeal can go forward promptly without unnecessary disruption to consumers or the high tech industry."
The Justice Department meanwhile took heart at Jackson's decision to send the appeal to the Supreme Court - WASHINGTON (AFP)
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