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June 16th, 2000

[9:00 AM] Bill Gates Compares Antitrust Lawsuit To Apple's "Look & Feel" Lawsuit
by Bryan Chaffin

In a C-Net article, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates is quoted as saying that the current antitrust trial against his company was similar to an ill-fated suit brought by Apple in the late 1980's. Mr. Gates suggested that the current lawsuit was a waste of resources just like the Apple lawsuit brought in the late 1980's suing Microsoft for stealing the "look and feel" of the Mac OS. According to a C-Net article:

Last week, a US 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.

"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."

So says Mr. Gates.

The Mac Observer Spin: Where to start with this one? In some aspects, Mr. Gates is right. The Apple lawsuit was a waste of resources, but not because Microsoft hadn't taken anything from Apple. Indeed, Apple lost that lawsuit for one reason only and that was because they had licensed the look and feel of the Mac OS to Microsoft in exchange for Microsoft developing Word for the Mac! Apple gave away the farm with that brilliant contract, and it was only that contract that allowed it to happen. From that stand point, it was foolish for Apple to have sued Microsoft for usurping the "look and feel" of the Mac OS when they had indeed licensed it to Microsoft in the first place.

Mr. Gates is also correct that cases of this sort are always decided by higher courts. From there on, Mr. Gates just has it wrong. Microsoft has always done just about everything they could to stifle competition through exclusionary contracts and leveraging their monopoly power in the OS arena into other arenas, something prohibited by antitrust law. The company has never allowed their sole competition to be in the form of making the best software which is the only honorable way to compete in this editor's opinion. For this reason, the DOJ's crusade has not been a waste of resources.

Lastly, we want to take the time to say, as we usually do in Microsoft ranting pieces, that we tip our hats to the Microsoft Mac Business Unit who makes the best software with the Microsoft name on it.

Microsoft



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