Microsoft settles six more suits
Halfway to freedom
Microsoft has reached the "halfway point" in its legal marathon after announcing settlements Tuesday with five more states and the District of Columbia.
Brad Smith, general counsel at Microsoft, presided over a conference call with the press to cover deals reached with Kansas, the District of Columbia, North Carolina, Tennessee, North Dakota and South Dakota. All told the class action settlements have a "face value" of $200 million. Microsoft must still deal with five other states and come to terms in suits with Sun Microsystems, Burst.com and the European Union.
"I think we have passed the halfway point and perhaps gone a bit farther," Smith said, referring to the sum total of Microsoft's legal troubles.
Microsoft has now come to terms with 10 states that had brought class action antitrust suits against the company. Microsoft could pay out as much as $1.55 billion as a result of the deals - the vast majority of that amount coming from a $1.1 billion agreement with California.
The settlements are based, in part, on the size of a state's population and its class action lawsuit provisions. In all cases, the class can receive vouchers to be used toward computer hardware, software and training. Large portions of any unclaimed vouchers are then awarded to schools. While the vouchers do not require the purchase of Microsoft kit, the Beast will no doubt see plenty of the cash coming back its way.
The pre-call Calypso hold music put reporters in a soft, warm place before Smith jumped on the horn to air Microsoft's dirty laundry. The hardest working man in tech litigation rattled off one lawsuit after another in impressive fashion. He assured the audience of eager journos that Microsoft has learned a lot in its journey through the System. One lesson is that it must work to be kinder and gentler towards the rest of the industry. (Twenty lawsuits will do that to a company.)
Microsoft even managed to offer up an olive branch - or was it hemlock - to Sun.
"We hope that there may come a day in the future when the relationship between the two companies is more constructive," Smith said.
Not bloody likely.
Microsoft ranks its battles with Sun, the EU, Burst.com and an appeal from the state of Massachusetts, as the four main legal hurdles it must still cross.
The company was also proud to point out that 17 class action lawsuits have either been dismissed or failed to reach class action status.
All told, Microsoft has escaped several years of litigation with but a few slaps on the wrist and fines that are hardly noticed in its massive bottom line. Not bad for a convicted monopolist. It's enough even to make Admiral Poindexter proud. ®
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