WinInfo Daily Update, April 19, 2006: Appeals Court Clears Microsoft in Class Action Lawsuit

Appeals Court Clears Microsoft in Class Action Lawsuit

A federal appeals court has upheld 2001 and 2004 rulings in which Microsoft was cleared of liability in class action lawsuits related to the software giant's US antitrust case. Plaintiffs in the class action case had argued that Microsoft had overcharged them for Windows and other software and that they were harmed by a lack of competitive technologies because of Microsoft's anticompetitive business practices.

The US Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Maryland unanimously ruled that Kloth v. Microsoft couldn't continue because the plaintiffs hadn't purchased the offending software directly from Microsoft but had instead acquired it with a new PC purchase from one of Microsoft's hardware partners. The decision upheld two separate rulings earlier issued by US District Court Judge J. Frederick Motz.

Microsoft representatives referred to the decision as a "significant milestone" for the company and the effective ending of the case. Technically, the plaintiffs can still appeal the case to the US Supreme Court, but it's unlikely that the Court would elect to hear the appeal.

US Judge Denies Microsoft Request in EU Antitrust Case

A Massachusetts judge this week blocked Microsoft's subpoena of Novell, a rival OS maker. Microsoft had been trying to force Novell to hand over documents related to Microsoft's European Union (EU) antitrust case.

US District Court Chief Judge Mark L. Wolf granted Novell's motion to halt the subpoena, ruling that it was an attempt to circumvent the authority of the EU courts. "It is now evident that granting Microsoft the discovery it requests from Novell would interfere with the foreign tribunal, not assist it," the ruling reads. "Enforcing Microsoft's ... subpoena to Novell would circumvent and undermine the law of the European Community concerning how a litigant may obtain third-party documents."

The Massachusetts ruling follows a similar ruling in California in which a judge denied Microsoft's request to subpoena Sun Microsystems and Oracle for the same reason. A New York judge is considering an identical request related to IBM. Legal experts had previously said that Microsoft's efforts to bypass EU law by seeking the help of US courts was ill considered and would fail.

In related news, Microsoft will appear at the EU's Court of First Instance in Luxembourg to appeal the 2004 antitrust ruling in which the EU's European Commission (EC) found that Microsoft had illegally used its market dominance to harm competition.

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