MS/DOJ: Talks due with mediator

Microsoft and the US Department of Justice (DOJ), are reportedly to begin talks behind closed doors today with the recently appointed court mediator, concerning their ongoing antitrust lawsuit.

According to a report in the New York Times, lawyers for Microsoft, the DOJ and the 19 US states engaged in the bitterly fought lawsuit are being called to Chicago today (Tuesday morning US time) to meet with Richard Posner, the man chosen by Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson to act as mediator.

Judge Jackson announced the appointment of Posner, the chief judge of the 7th Circuit US Court of Appeals in Chicago, as mediator, less than a week ago.

The two sides have previously met up in a number of attempts to reach some kind of settlement, but so far to no avail.

Posner's advice to the software giant is likely to be to settle with the DOJ and the US states before facing a final ruling that may invite yet more class-action lawsuits, the New York Times report said.

Just last Thursday, law firm Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach LLP announced in a statement the filing of a consumer class-action lawsuit in West Palm Beach, Florida against Microsoft. The lawsuit alleges that the software vendor's anti-competitive behaviour resulted in an increase in the price of PCs that came bundled with Microsoft's Windows operating system.

The Florida lawsuit is the latest in a steady stream of class-action lawsuits being filed against Microsoft following Judge Jackson's findings of fact issued on November 5. In the findings of fact, the judge sided strongly with the government's case, stating that the software vendor is a monopoly and has abused that position to both damage its rivals and limit consumer choice.

Other lawsuits have already been filed in San Francisco, Louisiana, Orange County, California, New York and Birmingham, Alabama, according to reports.

Judge Jackson has already set the date for making final oral arguments in the antitrust case to be February 22 in the Federal District Court in Washington.