Microsoft is facing resistance from both university professors and Oracle in its attempts to get hold of information it claims is relevant to the antitrust lawsuit filed against it by the US Department of Justice (DoJ).
Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) yesterday filed their objections to Big Green?s demands in a federal court in Boston, on behalf of faculty members David Yoffie of the Harvard Business School and Michael Cusumano of MIT?s Sloan School of Business.
The software giant had requested that the lecturers hand over research and taped conversations with Netscape executives in which they reportedly admit their current market troubles are not due to Microsoft and its allegedly unfair competitive practices, but to poor business decisions.
The information formed the basis of a book entitled "Competing on Internet Time: Lessons from Netscape and its Battle with Microsoft", which is due to be published by Simon & Schuster?s Free Press division just days before the start of the antitrust trial on 15 October, but Microsoft wants to use it as the "centrepiece" of its defence case against the DoJ.
The universities, however, attest that the demands threaten their First Amendment rights and the future of academic research because the Netscape interviews were held on condition that they remained private.
At the same time, Microsoft also disclosed a message from Netscape?s Marc Andreessen to Thomas Reardon, his Microsoft counterpart. This, Big Green?s lawyers claim, shows that Netscape did not consider a meeting held on 15 June 1995 to discuss calving up the Internet market to be threatening, despite government allegations to the contrary.
The software giant reportedly plans to use such evidence to demonstrate that such meetings between rivals are common in the software industry.
Meanwhile, US District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson today ordered Oracle to hand over a limited number of internal documents to Microsoft, after having resisted such demands to date. These include any agreements entered into, but not those simply considered or proposed, but the move means that the 15 October trial date is now unlikely to be delayed.
Oracle had previously said that Big Green?s original request was "too vast" and that it "apparently believes that its status as an accused monopolist entitles it to use judicial process to delve into its competitors? most sensitive commercial information".
Donald Falk, Oracle?s lawyer, said today: "We don?t believe any of it is relevant."
But, Microsoft, on the other hand, accused Oracle of trying to hide evidence that would help its case, saying the information was "plainly relevant" and claiming that the database supplier had formed a "Rebel Alliance" to oppose its influence on the industry.
It is again seeking to show that other companies also routinely collaborate in alliances against rivals and is demanding information about deals undertaken by Oracle and Sun respectively to use Netscape?s browser and to end development of their own.
Big Green also wants details of an alleged meeting in 1994 between Oracle, Sun, IBM and others to discuss how to end competition among themselves. Microsoft alleges that Oracle planned a "convoluted set of transactions" to buy IBM?s Lotus unit, before selling part of it to Novell. Novell would then sell Unix to Oracle.
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