Judge Dismisses Microsoft Consumer Lawsuits

A federal judge has dismissed consumer lawsuits against Microsoft filed in Connecticut, Kentucky, Maryland, and Oklahoma that alleged that the company overcharged consumers for Windows, Microsoft Excel, Office, and Word. Judge J. Frederick Motz, who is also overseeing other cases against the software giant, said that antitrust laws in those states prevent consumers from suing Microsoft because the consumers didn't purchase products directly from the company.

Most US states have laws that protect companies against so-called indirect purchasers, who in Microsoft's case are people who acquire Windows and other products from PC makers or retailers. For this reason, in the past few months courts have dismissed most consumer-based lawsuits against Microsoft, although the company was forced to settle a high-profile class-action lawsuit in California, one of just a few states with strong consumer-protection laws.

In 2001, Judge Motz dismissed 38 other lawsuits against the company, but he held off on ruling on cases filed at the state level until similar state-law cases were resolved. Judge Motz is also presiding over Sun Microsystems' lawsuit against Microsoft, and he recently ruled that Microsoft must bundle Sun's Java technology in Windows. In addition, Judge Motz is overseeing cases against Microsoft on behalf of Be, burst.com, and Netscape (a unit of AOL Time Warner).

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