Judge rules Lindows MS settlement claims invalid

But you can keep the software and claim again

Lindows.com's attempt to submit claims under the California-Microsoft settlement procedure has been rejected by the judge, but people who submitted claims via the msfreepc.com site have still had a reasonable deal. They can keep any software they got from Lindows.com, and the judge has instructed the claims administrator to send them a claims form for them to claim via the court-approved process.

So the would-be claimants got free software and can still claim, while Lindows.com got publicity for itself and the settlement for the price of the software and the legal fees. It's less clear what Microsoft got out of it, apart from succeeding in publicising the settlement some more by taking Lindows.com on. It seems perfectly possible that Microsoft will end up paying out more money, having done this, than it would have if it had left Lindows.com alone.

But it still won't pay much. Microsoft has a theoretical liability of $1.1 billion to be paid in settlement of California's overcharging action, but Californian consumers need to apply for relatively small payouts from the company, so relatively few people will apply. Lindows.com says MSfreePC handled around 15,000 claims with an estimated total worth of $1 million, i.e., a flea-bite.

Microsoft will benefit to some extent from the money that goes to schools, as a fair amount of this will be spent on Microsoft software, while it can also keep a share of any money unclaimed. Whether or not MSFreePC was a publicity stunt, Lindows.com CEO Michael Robertson is entirely correct in viewing the settlement as a charade. Microsoft offers a large headline figure in the sure knowledge that the actual payout will be much smaller, California gets to extricate itself while claiming victory, and nothing changes. The judge's ruling can be found here, while the legal settlement process can be accessed here. ®

Related stories:
MS takes $1.1bn 'hostage' to freeze Lindows out of California case
MS issues take-down to Lindows, redefines 'guilt'

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