Google fails to extend antitrust deal

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Microsoft scored a victory in its antitrust wrangles with Google on Tuesday as a federal court judge rejected the search company’s attempt to force an extension of government oversight of Microsoft’s activities.

Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who oversees the terms of the four-year-old agreement that settled the US antitrust case against Microsoft, refused to consider a Google application to have the agreement extended beyond November, when large parts of it expire.

She said Google’s only course of action was to lodge its complaint with the US justice department - which has said it is satisfied no further action is needed.

According to some legal experts, Google’s attempt to intervene in the regulatory oversight of Microsoft marked a new step in the battle between the two technology rivals.

Google’s move was the latest example of how big companies have tried to use the antitrust process to prevent competition in their markets, said Ron Cass, chairman of the Center for the Rule of Law and a former commissioner of the US International Trade Commission.

Google has grown into an industry leader since the end of the Microsoft antitrust case, he added, and was asking the court “to turn a major high-tech competitor into a permanently regulated utility”.

Its gambit was the latest step in its six-month fight over software in the new Windows Vista operating system that is used to find information on a user’s PC. Microsoft has “hard-wired” this desktop search software into Vista, making it hard for rivals such as Google to compete, the search company complains.

The DoJ and the US states that jointly ensure Microsoft’s compliance with its antitrust obligations appeared to have resolved the matter last week when Microsoft agreed to make changes to Vista to reflect some of the issues that had been raised.

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