Microsoft is latest in long U.S. antitrust history

CIOL Bureau
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WASHINGTON: The U.S. antitrust case against Microsoft Corp. has been compared with the biggest legal battles in history between government trustbusters and some of the giants of American commerce. Here is a list of some of the major cases since the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 came into force:


  • International Business Machines Corporation
  • : Lasted from 1969 to 1982 and is the case most often cited when comparing with Microsoft. The largest legal case of any kind ever filed, according to University of Baltimore law professor Robert Lande.

The Justice Department charged the company bundled hardware and software together, announced production schedules on "phantom machines" to delay possible customers from signing up with competitors, and gave special allowances to universities and other educational institutions. IBM had a market share of 65 percent, less than the government now says Microsoft has in key software.

The case was dismissed in 1982 after a delay that commentators said had made it a "relic." Nonetheless, IBM made an agreement with European governments that helped open up the computer market.

  • AT&T Corporation
  • : Lasted from 1974 to 1982, when AT&T agreed to a consent decree with the government leading to the 1984 break-up of the company. The government said AT&T had monopolized the market for local and long-distance telephone service, along with equipment.

  • Standard Oil
  • : The United States Supreme Court ruled for the government in 1911, ending a long antitrust case and opening the way for the break-up of John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil. The resulting companies actually increased the value of the stock, making Rockefeller even richer than he had been.

  • Aluminum Co. of America
  • : A 1945 case the government fought through World War II to end Alcoa's aluminum monopoly. In the end, the government sold aluminum war production plants to Reynolds Aluminum and Kaiser Aluminum, creating a competitive market.

  • American Tobacco
  • : In 1946, the Supreme Court upheld the conviction of major tobacco companies for a conspiracy to monopolize and exclude competitors. Among other practices, the companies purchased tobacco they did not need to keep it out of the hands of smaller competitors.

(C) Reuters Ltd.