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Sat, Dec 20, 2003 - Page 12 News List

RealNetworks takes Microsoft to court


Microsoft Corp was hit with yet another antitrust lawsuit, this one accusing the software giant of illegally monopolizing the growing field of digital music and video.

RealNetworks Inc said Thursday that Microsoft illegally tied its Windows Media Player software with copies of the ubiquitous Windows operating system, whether Windows users want Microsoft's player or not.

That, the lawsuit said, makes it harder for RealNetworks's own Real One software to compete, "resulting in substantial lost revenue and business for RealNetworks."

The charges are similar to those brought by the European Commission, which has accused Microsoft of trying to squash competing audiovisual software by including its Media Player with Windows.

European regulators are demanding Microsoft either produce a version of Windows without the Media Player or incorporate rival programs into the package.

RealNetworks filed its lawsuit in US District Court in San Jose. Company spokesman Greg Chiemingo said many of the experts and witnesses who will testify in the case live in Silicon Valley. Microsoft's headquarters is in Redmond, Washington, near RealNetworks' in Seattle.

Microsoft spokesman Jim Dessler said he had not yet seen the lawsuit and could not immediately comment.

RealNetworks said Microsoft broke the law by restricting how PC makers install competing media players with Windows, which controls more than 90 percent of personal computers.

"We believe our business would be substantially larger today if Microsoft were playing by the rules," RealNetworks chairman and chief executive Rob Glaser said in a statement.

Bob Kimball, RealNetworks' vice president and general counsel, said the case "is based on many of the same types of Microsoft conduct that US courts have already declared to be illegal, such as failure to disclose interface information and imposing restrictions on PC makers."

Microsoft has tried settling several other antitrust suits filed by competitors and the federal and state governments. Still pending are lawsuits by Santa Clara-based Sun Microsystems Inc and Santa Rosa-based Burst.com.

Those cases claimed Microsoft violated state antitrust laws and laws against unfair competition. They were filed in the wake of a 1999 federal court ruling that Microsoft abused its power to maintain its monopoly on the Windows operating system.

Microsoft already agreed to pay US$750 million to Time Warner Inc, which had seen an erosion in the market share of its Netscape browser as Microsoft's Internet Explorer grew. Microsoft also agreed to pay US$23.3 million to Mountain View, California-based Be Inc.

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