Ending a trial that most likely would have put Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates and CEO Steve Ballmer on the stand, Microsoft announced that it has settled a Minnesota class-action antitrust lawsuit. Minnesota consumers filed the lawsuit against the software giant in the wake of its federal antitrust trial, claiming that they were overcharged for Windows and Microsoft Office applications in violation of state antitrust laws and seeking as much as $425 million in damages. At the time of the settlement, the case was in progress in front of a jury and was expected to last a few more weeks. Terms of the settlement haven't been finalized, but Microsoft representatives said that both parties will present the final settlement details in early summer.
The antitrust case was one of the few lawsuits Microsoft has faced recently that the company wasn't able to settle before it headed to trial. The company has paid more than $1.1 billion to settle similar lawsuits throughout the country, and antitrust cases in 16 states have been dismissed. Microsoft has been using its $50 billion cash reserve to settle pending legal action. For instance, earlier this month, Microsoft and Sun Microsystems settled long-running litigation that resulted in Microsoft paying Sun almost $2 billion. And last week, Microsoft settled an InterTrust Technologies patent-violation lawsuit related to Digital Rights Management (DRM) for $440 million.
Even with these recent high-profile settlements, the company isn't out of the legal woods yet, and Microsoft's legal teams will continue to stay busy with numerous antitrust-related cases. Microsoft is currently waiting for the results of its appeal of last month's European Union (EU) antitrust ruling, which includes a $613 million fine and a requirement that Microsoft release a modified version of Windows in Europe. In addition, streaming-media company RealNetworks and a class of consumers in Nebraska are suing Microsoft for related antitrust violations. Don't be surprised to see these lawsuits settled soon.