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Microsoft dodges multi-million dollar WGA payout

Spyware case lacks class

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Microsoft has dodged a potentially-expensive legal fight after a case against Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) was denied class-action status.

This means lawyers cannot represent individuals as a group of defendants in the case, and that's likely a cost saver for Microsoft. Class-action status can push case costs and any final settlements into the multi-million-dollar range.

The dismissal is a victory for Microsoft, whose lawyers last year slammed the three-year-old case as "fictional," "demonstrably false," and from an "alternate universe."

The case alleged that WGA breached privacy because it was spyware used to gather information about users Windows XP machines and accused Microsoft of making false claims about the software

WGA is used by Microsoft to combat piracy by checking to see if the copy of Windows running on a users' PC is legitimate. The suit alleged that WGA was falsely advertised as a security update.

By denying the case class-action status, US District Court Judge Richard Jones has prevented any Windows XP user who purchased a machine in the middle of 2006 from joining the case without needing to hire their own attorney. Microsoft began promoting WGA in 2006.

The judge's action limits the size of the case, and any potential damages, as plaintiffs would need to be passionate and committed enough to foot the cost of their own attorney and other potential charges.

The case was scheduled to go to trial on January 25, but the judge has now asked for a new date.

You can read the US court filing here (warning: PDF). ®

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