1. The United States v Microsoft refers to a case instituted against Microsoft Corporation in 1998 by the Department of Justice. This is a case that brought into the limelight competition laws that exist to curb the inappropriate abuse of monopoly power. The point in dispute in this case was the alleged abuse of monopoly powers by Microsoft seen in how it had attached its web browser to its windows operating system.
The plaintiff in this case was alleging that Microsoft was having undue advantage over other providers as the windows came with a replica of internet explorer, this made it hard for other operators such as Opera to be marketed effectively. The allegations went further to posit that application programming interfaces had been programmed to make them more compatible to internet explorer but slow and disadvantageous to other browsers. Such a practice, the Department of Justice claimed was unfair as it led to the cost of windows being unbearably higher than it would have been had the two been delinked (Alan Meese,19).
Marc-Peter Radke, in his journal. Law and Economics of Microsoft vs. U.S. Department of Justice – New Paradigm for Antitrust in Network Markets or Inefficient Lock-In of Antitrust Policy?, he provides his own analysis of the landmark The united states v Microsoft case. He provides an outline of how it went and its out come focusing on the Anti trust laws.
After a tussle in court, the Department of Justice and Microsoft reached a settlement striking a compromise that Microsoft has to reveal its programming interfaces to its competitors. There was a similar case against Microsoft under consideration in Europe and Microsoft was fined over 400 million euros for restricting customers to have a fair choice in media players as Microsoft sells its operating system together with its media player as a package. This is against the competition laws both in the European Union and Antitrust laws in the United States.
The competition law is a branch of business law that seeks to regulate and curb unfair practices by dominant players in the market. Dominant players in this case are the likes Microsoft which enjoys over 90%of the entire world market. Anti Trust laws also go ahead to put restrictions on any prohibitive agreements that might lead to lessening competition in the market place. This law also goes ahead to control and supervise large firms wishing to merge or acquire another firm especially if such an acquisition or merger is likely to impede on the spirit of competition in the market.
The key objectives of the competition law is to safe guard the welfare of the consumers while ensuring that the environment in market is conducive for competition without the dominant players having undue advantage over the small players.
Competition in the United States is legislated by the Sherman act of 1890 together with the Clayton act of 1914. The Sherman Act was inspired by the common law while the Clayton act of 1914 was meant to reinforce the legislations in the former act. Examples of practices restricted include exclusive dealings, acquisitions and mergers that will lead to a significant reduction of competition as well as the practice of price discrimination.
2. Ken Arnold (2002) writes in the Wichita Business Journal titled local CPAs: Enron Scandal will cause Internal Changes that in his opinion stricter regulations on accountants will not curb the occurrences that witnessed the bankruptcy of the Enron Company. The journal notes that the government and the public are both likely to be more vigilant in their view of Certified Public Accountants firms. Companies also will be demanding a lot more from the accounting firms especially requiring them to disclose their incomes lest they be a replica of the Arthur Andersen firm (http://www.bizjournals.com/wichita/stories/2002/03/11/story4.html).
The journal points out an important aspect of business law on financial reporting and disclosure. It points out how corporations sometimes manage to swindle millions of investors’ money through unscrupulous reporting and failure to disclose assets and liabilities as stipulated in the business law. Investors and Enron workers continued to pump millions of their hand earned dollars believing it was a blue chip company as reported in the year after year financial statement. It was to later emerge that Enron was almost bankrupt and could not meet its obligations.
The Enron scandal refers to a scam between the Enron Corporation and the Arthur Andersen accounting firm that was auditing its financial reports. This would finally lead to Enron filing for bankruptcy in 2001.
Investigations made indicated that Enron engaged in illegal practices that distorted its financial reporting leading to a failure in appropriate disclosure and hence creating a mirage of financial success whereas billions were being lost. In its effort to evade taxation, Enron had formed offshore firms that would help conceal the illegal activities that were going on. This would lead to the shooting up of Enron shares in the stock market coupled with insider trading. This knowledge was common to the top executives but they never revealed it to the investors.
These officials ranging from the chairman Kenneth Lay were prosecuted with all manner of financial charges such as money laundering, misrepresentation of financial statements and insider trading. Others were the chief accounting officer, Richard case who was also charged with financial fraud.
3. Eugene R. Quinn, Jr. writes about intellectual property rights centering on the patent laws in his article titled Introduction to United States Patent Law. He notes that intellectual property rights are exclusive rights recognized by the federal government. They are rights that relate to the legal rights given to inventors and those who come up with a unique idea. For one to be given a patent over a particular invention he or she must have applied for one from the United States patent office.
This article goes forth to describe the various types of patents that exist. These are outlined as utility patent, design patent and plant patent. A patent basically gives exclusive rights of use of a particular invention to the inventor and gives legally enforceable right to limit others from using, selling or producing a similar product (http://www.ipwatchdog.com/patent_law.html)
Patent law is an important branch of business law that seeks to protect businesses or individuals from loosing their rights on something they have invented, written or produced and hence giving them a competitive edge over others.
The history of the patent law has come a long way. In modernity it was given impetus by the formation of the World Intellectual Property Organization in the 1980s, this was also an effort to recognize and give exclusive rights to anything that is made out of human effort be it tangible or intangible. Patents however are only meant for inventions and do not extend to ideas.
The Patent Office of the United States has undergone a lot rejuvenations over the years as guided by supreme courts’ rulings that went ahead to clarify that any material produced through human intellect and effort should be legally qualified for patenting. According to the United States constitution, the authority to recognize and legislate over patents lies with the congress as stipulated in clause 8 of article 8. However such powers still operate within certain parameters as the congress cannot for example introduce legislation that will result to a particular good or knowledge being restricted to public access.
For an invention to be patented, the law requires that it must be for the advancement of science, it should not hence be an “obvious science.” (http://www.ipwatchdog.com/patent_law.html)
The intellectual property laws, under whish the patent law falls, seeks to protect the various rights related to inventions and exclusivity. Copyrights extend to creative works such as music, software and others such as paintings. Such copyrights are held for a certain period of time depending on the legal system. It may be 10 years or be as much as 70 years as under the EU rules. Trademark on the other hand is used to differentiate between the products of one business from another. A trade secret, still under the intellectual property laws seeks to safeguard the confidentiality of certain business knowledge.
For an invention to qualify for patenting according to this article, it must have an aspect of newness or novelty. It must be a product that has not been in existence before. It must also be able to satisfy certain aspect of human wants and have a sense of creativity or ingenuity. The se preconditions were included in the constitution as a way of striking a compromise between the need to encourage innovations and maintain competition
Alan Meese, Monopoly Bundling In Cyberspace: How Many Products Does Microsoft Sell ? 44 Antitrust Bulletin 65 .1999, 19
Ken Arnold Friday. Local CPAs: Enron scandal will cause internal changes. Wichita BusinessJournal.March8, 2002. Retrieved on 23 April, 2007 from http://www.bizjournals.com/wichita/stories/2002/03/11/story4.html
Eugene R Quinn Jr. introduction to United States patent law. 2pwatchdog.com.2007. Retrieved on 23 April, 2007 from http://www.ipwatchdog.com/patent_law.html
Marc-Peter Radke. Law and Economics of Microsoft vs. U.S. Department of Justice – New Paradigm for Antitrust in Network Markets or Inefficient Lock-In of Antitrust Policy? 2001, 13-40.