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Money-chasing lawyers popped too many pills, says MS

Ambulance chasers hold Washington gaffe-fest

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Yesterday, American legal vultures met in Washington in an attempt to pick over the carcass of Microsoft, supposedly because they are acting in the interest of clients who have been harmed by the business practices of Fort Redmond. The truth is of course that they scent some rich pickings, and hope that Microsoft would rather settle for a few million dollars than face protracted litigation and high legal costs. Money is of course relatively inconsequential to Microsoft, but the aggravation is considerable - and the class action lawyers know it. Michael Hausfeld of Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll of New York (specialists in slave labour, holocaust and genetically modified food cases, it seems) hosted the meeting, in the hope of co-ordinating some 42 cases that have been launched or are in the process of being filed, with many more expected. The objective was to develop a national strategy for dealing with the alleged overcharging of users. But an article in the Washington Post draws attention to the lack of expertise of some of the lawyers. Perhaps their first step should be to learn a little about the IT industry, because the examples in the article are hilarious. Some of the lawyers apparently just substitute a few words in the texts of other suits, but not very carefully so that in one case Microsoft was being accused of excluding "other developers of Intel-compatible PC operating systems from obtaining the supply of such generic drugs' active pharmaceutical ingredient ('API')". A representative of Krause & Kalfayan, the firm making the gaffe, said that mistakes were not a big deal. Shelby & Cartee located Microsoft as principally in Texas and said it would represent those who made purchases through the "Macintosh Computer Company". Waite, Schneider, Bayless & Chesley thought that Microsoft withheld information from Netscape, so preventing the development of a Windows 95 version of Netscape Navigator." The firm's web page states that the firm "has set a new standard in the legal profession". There is a strong case to be made that users of Microsoft software have been harmed, but wrongs will not be righted by these lawyers. Microsoft spokesman Mark Murray said that "It seems like all of these cases were written under the influence of an active pharmaceutical ingredient. The only people who are going to benefit from these cases are lawyers." Fair enough so far as the funny substances go, but was he admitting that Microsoft would be paying up, since the cases are presumably being handled on a contingency fee basis? ®

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