Microsoft Case as a Political Trial, The

Competition Policy and Antitrust

Article Snapshot


John Lopatka and William H. Page


University of Florida Levin College of Law Working Paper #2010-15, 2010


This paper examines interest group pressure and ideology in the antitrust suit against Microsoft.

Policy Relevance

This paper analyzes the underlying political pressure exerted in large antitrust cases, and notes the role that the Microsoft case played in shaping a political shift in antitrust law.

Main Points

  • The Microsoft antitrust case was actually two cases, one federal and the other brought forth by a group of states, in which Microsoft was accused of intentionally impeding the distribution of software that could have undermined Windows dominant position.
  • Antitrust law, generally focused on preventing anticompetitive activity in the marketplace, has long been used as a political stage.  It has been argued that even the Sherman Act, the first major American antitrust law, was enacted to protect special interests.
  • Microsoft, as an extremely well-known company, became a target for antitrust litigation.  Microsoft’s rivals waged a political campaign against Microsoft, urging the federal and state Justice Departments to bring antitrust suits.
  • Microsoft was slow to respond to the campaign against them, in part because Bill Gates believed that the antitrust suits were unfounded.  But as the campaign against Microsoft grew more intense, Microsoft mounted its own public relations campaign, operating both in the media and in Washington.
  • The campaigning involved in the Microsoft case had little to do with the substantive issues of the case.  Rather, it was a secondary component consisting of efforts to induce the government to intervene in ways that would affect Microsoft’s performance in the marketplace.
  • The Microsoft case was political in nature primarily because it represented the use of a particular political ideology: that government intervention in the marketplace may be necessary to ensure competition and further the public interest.

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