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Microsoft Wins Court Case

A U.S. District Court jury Friday found that Microsoft Corp. did not violate antitrust laws in its dealing with a small Danbury software company.

The jury did find, however, that Microsoft (MSFT) had committed deceptive practices in violation of the Conn. Unfair Trade Practices Act, but awarded Bristol Technology Inc. just $1 in that claim.

Legal observers had been watching for the outcome as the software giant prepares for a decision in its landmark antitrust case being heard in federal court in Washington.

Steven Aeschbacher, Microsoft's lawyer, called the verdict "an important victory for the whole software industry." He said the decision "protects the rights of people who developed intellectual property to be able to license it in a fair and equitable way."

Microsoft shares, meanwhile, surged 5.5 percent to an all-time high of 99 11/16 in trading Friday afternoon amid a published report that the company is going to create a tracking stock for its Internet assets with which to make acquisitions and attract executives.

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that Microsoft may make an announcement as early as next week, when Microsoft holds its annual conference for Wall Street analysts. The company declined to comment.

The plan makes sense, since "Microsoft has multiple businesses based on different consumers," said Ted Schadler, an analyst at Forrester Research. "It starts to make more sense because others are saying it makes sense."

Companies typically create a tracking stock when they want to highlight a slice of their business that the market may not be recognizing.

Earlier this week, Disney (DIS) said it will buy the 58 percent of Infoseek (SEEK) it didn't already own to create a tracking stock. See related story.

Microsoft's cyber properties, include:

  • Travel service Expedia, which bills about $7 million each week.
  • HomeAdvisor, which helps surfers navigate the tricky process of buying a house, as well as CarPoint.
  • Free e-mail provider Hotmail, which had more than 30 million accounts at the end of last year.
  • MoneyCentral, which boasts the largest reach of financial news sites on the Web.
  • News site MSNBC.com, which consistently vies with CNN.com for top rankings.

The software giant is set to report fiscal-fourth-quarter earnings on Monday, with analysts looking for earnings of 36 cents per share. It will also hold an analyst meeting Thursday.
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