Don’t look for the Supreme Court to take up the Microsoft antitrust case right away. Direct appeal, bypassing the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, is allowed by law but has happened rarely since 1974 when Congress passed a law making it harder. A challenge to the AT & T Corp.’s breakup went directly to the Supreme Court in 1983, resulting in summary affirmance of the settlement plan.

But the Microsoft case could be different, says George Washington University Law School professor William Kovacic, an expert on the high court’s antitrust jurisprudence. Facing the voluminous record and Justice Thomas Penfield Jackson’s sometimes spotty opinion on points of law, the high court might prefer to let the appeals court look the case over first. Microsoft’s Bill Gates is also said to prefer that route, which has been helpful to the company before.

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