Microsoft as legal piñata is getting old

RealNetworks filed a lawsuit Dec. 18 accusing Microsoft of ongoing antitrust violations by which ``Microsoft has unjustly enriched itself at the expense of RealNetworks'' -- even as RealNetworks loudly touts its growth. What's even more strange is RealNetworks' choice of a venue for the trial: right here in San Jose, even though RealNetworks is based in Seattle and Microsoft headquarters is a few miles away in Redmond, Wash. It looks like jury shopping to me. Microsoft is a hometown hero in Seattle, and I'm guessing RealNetworks wants a jury that's spent the last few years reading columns by my colleague Dan Gillmor, who's famous -- or notorious -- for his heartfelt anti-Microsoft views.

I'm not going to defend all of Microsoft's conduct; the lengthy antitrust proceedings still wrapping up uncovered more than a little unsavory behavior. But at the same time, I don't want to see Microsoft turned into a legal piñata for any company in the computing industry to whack in hopes of shaking out a few tens of millions of dollars in settlement money. RealNetworks' 62-page complaint, filed with U.S. District Court in San Jose, includes no smoking gun. It's more of a smoke-free zone, rehashing hostile comments made by Microsoft executives in 1997, and making vague allegations of Microsoft putting pressure on computer makers to exclude RealNetworks' software.

News source: The Mercury News

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