The US Supreme Court has rejected without comment Microsoft's appeal against the verdict that it broke antitrust laws, clearing the way for sanctions against the company.
Microsoft wanted the Supreme Court to agree that the post-trial antics of Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, who gave media interviews slamming Microsoft and its staff, had tainted the proceedings.
In June, the Appeals Court reversed Jackson's order that Microsoft be split in two, but upheld the ruling that the firm illegally defended its Windows monopoly.
Lack of favourable intervention by the Supreme Court leaves Microsoft facing the choice of settling or gambling on the mercies of Jackson's replacement, US District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly.
Kollar-Kotelly has already scheduled remedial hearings to begin on 11 March next year, should ongoing settlement talks fail to produce an agreement by 2 November.
The Supreme Court's decision to keep its distance kills fears that the US Justice Department and the 18 states suing Microsoft may have to begin the three-year old saga all over again.
Had today's verdict gone the other way, Microsoft would have gained substantial leverage in the current settlement talks.
Shares in Microsoft had fallen around three per cent to $56.40 by 1600 BST.
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