Microsoft yesterday won a major victory in its antitrust war against the US Department of Justice after previous rulings calling for the software giant's break-up were partially overturned.
The US Appeals Court, District of Columbia, criticised District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's original break-up order, saying that he had "made numerous offensive comments about Microsoft officials in public statements outside the courtroom, giving rise to an appearance of partiality".
Jackson ruled a year ago that Microsoft had a monopoly position and should be divided into two separate companies: one producing operating systems, and one applications.
In addition to sending the case back for retrial, the higher court required that Jackson should not preside over future proceedings: "We are constrained to vacate the final judgment on remedies, remand the case for reconsideration of the remedial order, and require that the case be assigned to a different trial judge on remand."
The Appeals Court cast further doubt over the original trial judgement: "The District Court failed to hold an evidentiary hearing despite the presence of remedies-specific factual disputes. Second, the court did not provide adequate reasons for its decreed remedies."
It wrote that Jackson's trial had "drastically altered the scope of Microsoft's liability", and added, "While we do not undertake to dictate to the District Court the precise form that relief should take on remand, we note again that it should be tailored to fit the wrong."
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