March 16, 2004 12:52 PM PST

Microsoft weighs in on Oracle, DOJ case

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Microsoft, in federal court filings late on Monday, gave its first hint of the depth of information it has disclosed in connection with the Justice Department's lawsuit against Oracle.

In its U.S. District Court of Northern California filings, Microsoft seeks to gain additional protection for "highly sensitive" business documents and information that it submitted to the Department of Justice and to outside attorneys for Oracle.

The software giant, which reportedly assured the Justice Department it would not enter the business applications market in the near future, has submitted more than 20,000 pages of documents and other information to the parties.

But the company is seeking to prevent Oracle's in-house attorneys from reviewing the most highly confidential material of the information it has provided. It also wants to control access for outside experts and others to confidential material.

To do this, Microsoft has asked the court to put more restrictions on a protective order. The order as it stands allows Oracle's outside counsel and two of its in-house attorneys, and their staffs, to have access to all documents in the case.

"Microsoft is seeking this additional protection for only five percent of the total Microsoft documents being produced," the software company stated in its court filing. "The remaining documents--over 19,000 pages--have been produced, and Microsoft has no objection to those documents, much of which is confidential, being accessed by the two designated Oracle in-house counsel."

Microsoft is the first of the companies, organizations and individuals that have given the Justice Department highly confidential information and so may seek added protections. The deadline for these parties--which number, potentially, 33--to submit their proposals to the court is 4 p.m. PDT today.

The company said that it is prepared to submit evidence and witnesses to support its request for additional protection.

Oracle and Microsoft have a long-running history of fierce competition in the database market. Four years ago, Oracle hired a private investigation agency to look into possible links between Microsoft and two research organizations that supported Microsoft during its antitrust trial. In the process, the detective agency, Investigative Group International, was caught trying to buy trash from the offices of the research firms--the Independence Institute and the National Taxpayers Union.

Microsoft also requested in its court filing that the added protections include advance notice if any expert or consultant called into the case wants to review its confidential materials. The software maker then asked for a right of refusal to such reviews.

"Microsoft has a concern regarding disclosure of its designated confidential information to experts and consultants, if such experts and consultants are associated with competitors of Microsoft," the company stated in its court filing.

 

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