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April 18, 2006

Antitrust cases: Microsoft wins one and loses one

Posted by David Hunter at 9:24 PM ET.

Ina Fried at CNET – Court rules for Microsoft in antitrust case:

An appeals court on Tuesday upheld a ruling that Microsoft can’t be sued for antitrust violations under federal law by consumers and businesses who did not buy their software directly from the company.

Microsoft has already agreed to pay more than $1 billion to settle a number of class-action suits brought under state laws. Tuesday’s ruling doesn’t affect those cases, but does prevent a nationwide class-action suit under federal law from moving forward. The suit largely covered purchases of Windows made in the mid-to late-1990s, as well as application software such as Word and Excel.

The three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld rulings made in 2001 and 2004, pertaining to people who bought their Microsoft software from a retailer, a reseller or as part of a new computer purchase. The rulings held that these people could not obtain an injunction or recover damages from the software maker for antitrust violations, such as overcharging, under federal law. In general, federal law holds that only the direct purchasers of a product can sue for overcharging, though there are some exceptions.

Microsoft was “extremely pleased” as one might expect. They were likely less pleased with Mass. Court Rejects Microsoft Request as reported by Aoiffe White for the AP:

A Massachusetts court has rejected a Microsoft Corp. request to force software rival Novell Inc. to hand over European Union correspondence that Microsoft claims it needs to defend itself against antitrust charges in Europe.

According to a court order Monday, U.S. District Judge Mark L. Wolf said Microsoft had not shown that the EU proceedings were fundamentally unfair or would be if it did not have access to the Novell documents.

He said the European Commission had told the court it viewed Microsoft’s subpoena as a “thinly veiled attempt” to circumvent EU procedures that aimed to strike a balance between a defendant’s right to see antitrust papers and companies “who may have a well-founded fear of retaliation if they assist the Commission in such cases.”

“It is now evident that granting Microsoft the discovery it requests from Novell would interfere with the foreign tribunal, not assist it,” he wrote.

Wolf also criticized the software company for “erroneously, repeatedly” stating that the European Commission could not obtain the documents and make them available to Microsoft.

Microsoft had no comment. In March, Microsoft’s similar requests for documents from Sun and Oracle were denied – there is one remaining request still pending in New York for IBM.

Filed under Antitrust, Coopetition, General Business, IBM, Legal, Microsoft, Novell, Oracle, Public Relations, Sun

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