Office of Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr.

November 6, 2001 Media Inquiries: Sean Caine 410-576-6357

Deal Means More Consumer Choice, Competition

Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr., announced today that Maryland and eight other states have agreed to settle their lawsuit against Microsoft. The modified settlement requires Microsoft to share protocols that allow personal computers to communicate with servers, solidifying the position of non-Microsoft computer servers as a platform to compete with Windows. The settlement also requires the company to allow competitors the ability to design "middleware" software like Internet browsers and media players that easily interface with the Windows operating system. The settlement prohibits Microsoft from retaliating against companies who provide consumers a choice between Microsoft products and competing non-Microsoft products. Ultimately, the agreement will increase choices for consumers.

In May 1998, the U.S. Department of Justice and 20 states filed separate but largely similar antitrust lawsuits against Microsoft in federal district court in Washington, D.C. In November 1999, the court found that Microsoft was guilty of antitrust violations, that it abused its monopoly power, and that consumers suffered harm as a result of that behavior. In June, a federal appeals court unanimously affirmed the finding that Microsoft used anti-competitive means to maintain its operating system monopoly.

"I strongly believe that if Microsoft lives up to the letter and spirit of the agreement, it will be a win for Maryland consumers, a win for innovation in the technology marketplace and our nationís economy," Attorney General Curran said. "But, if they do not and I as made clear to them, Maryland will not hesitate to go back into court."

The statesí settlement includes the following key provisions, which echo the foundational principles upon which the lawsuit was premised, as well as strengthen and clarify the settlement announced by the Justice Department on Friday:

  • Expands ability of Microsoft competitors in the server industry to make products that successfully interact with Microsoft desktop products. This will mean more choice for consumers and more competition in the server industry marketplace.
  • Expands the Justice Departmentís settlement agreement to include products that carry video and audio transmission over the Internet. Again, this increases consumer choice and competition in this area.
  • Clarifies other miscellaneous language, generally strengthens the decree, and closes loopholes.

Curran added that the states will establish an enforcement committee to monitor Microsoftís compliance with the judgment in the future.

There will be 60 days for public comment because the states have entered into the decree with the Justice Department. After that, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly may enter the proposed consent decree upon a finding that it serves the public interest.

The states settling today also include: Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Wisconsin.