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Google urges US to extend supervision of Microsoft

SAN FRANCISCO -- Google Inc., owner of the most popular Internet search engine, said Microsoft Corp. should remain under federal court supervision to ensure it's adhering to a 2001 antitrust consent decree barring it from hurting rivals.

In a document filed yesterday in Washington federal court, Google said changes revealed last week by Microsoft to address complaints that its Vista operating system hinders Google's desktop search engine may not go far enough. Google argued Microsoft's current approach to Vista violates an agreement barring the software maker from hindering rival desktop software.

"Google respectfully suggests that the court extend the term of the final judgment so that it may supervise the steps Microsoft is taking," Google said in a "friend of the court" filing with US District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who oversees the decree that resolved a government antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft. Most of the decree's provisions expire in November. Google isn't a party to the lawsuit.

Google may have to persuade federal and state antitrust regulators to recommend that Kollar-Kotelly keep Microsoft under court supervision, said Herbert Hovenkamp, who teaches antitrust law at the University of Iowa and has consulted on the case for the states. Regulators agreed last week that Microsoft's proposed changes comply with the decree.

"Google doesn't have the power to enforce the consent decree," said Hovenkamp. If US and state regulators, who are parties in the case, don't recommend extension, "Google can file a new antitrust case," he said. A hearing in the case is scheduled for today in Washington.

A federal appeals court six years ago found Microsoft illegally defended its Windows monopoly by taking steps to discourage computer makers from promoting a rival browser.