Citing the "exceptional importance" of the case, the US Court of Appeals yesterday signalled its willingness to review the verdict against Microsoft in its antitrust battle with the US Department of Justice.

In an order released Tuesday afternoon, the court agreed to hear Microsoft's appeal "en banc" (before the full panel of appeals court judges). However, three of the ten-member panel will be recused (voluntarily removed from participation to avoid a conflict of interest) from the proceedings for various reasons, the appeals court said in its order.

Not right The announcement came hours after Microsoft filed its official notice of its intention to appeal the judge's ruling in the case. In the filing, Microsoft slammed the US District Court that tried the antitrust case for what it called an array of "substantive and procedural errors."

The appeals court has already sided with Microsoft on a previous issue related to the antitrust case, and its decision to bundle Internet Explorer with its Windows operating system. The US government, on the other hand, appears to be trying to fast-track the appeal straight to the US Supreme Court.

A Microsoft spokesman said: "We believe it's a positive thing that the court of appeals believes this is an important case and that it's prepared to move expeditiously on it."