June 13, 2000 7:00 AM PDT

Gates: Antitrust trial "a waste of resources"

TAIPEI, Taiwan--Microsoft chairman Bill Gates termed the government's antitrust suit against his company a "waste of resources" but said it should all be over in a year.

Likening the case to a famed intellectual property suit brought by Apple Computer against Microsoft years ago, Gates called the government's antitrust action "misguided" and an "unfortunate distraction." Speaking at a press conference here today, Gates said the appeals process, and a final determination of the case, should be obtained in approximately 12 months.

Last week, a U.S. District Court issued an order to break the company into two parts. The court also placed restrictions on Microsoft's business practices.

As usual, Gates maintained that the suit was unjustified and compared it with a bitter suit brought by Apple Computer in the 1980s. Apple alleged that Microsoft violated its intellectual property rights by adopting the "look and feel" of the Macintosh operating system in its Windows operating system. The suit was eventually settled out of court years later. Subsequently, Microsoft became an investor in Apple.

"We had a lawsuit with Apple that was a waste of resources. I'd put this one in the same category," Gates said.

Since before the verdict earlier this year, in which the court found Microsoft violated the Sherman Antitrust Act, the company has been gearing up for an appeal. The company has long maintained that many of U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's rulings in the case, including the determination that Microsoft wields monopoly power illegally, will be overturned on appeal.

Special coverage: Breakup The 12-month horizon that Gates put on the suit once again indicates that Microsoft will direct its appeal straight to the Supreme Court. Legal analysts have said that an expedited appeal to the Supreme Court, assuming the court agrees to hear the case, could resolve the suit in a year. Going through the normal appeals process, legal experts have said, could drag the suit out for two years or longer.

"This is a case that will be decided by a higher-level court. Microsoft's behavior has been pro-competitive in every aspect," Gates said. "All cases of this type are resolved by a higher-level court."

The only indirect benefit for the company has come in workplace camaraderie.

"Having that misguided lawsuit has drawn our team together," he said.

Gates also declined to state which of the two Microsofts he would work for in the event of a breakup.

"That is a hypothetical question that fortunately I will never need to answer," he said.

 

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