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Microsoft settles suit in California

Finally gets some antitrust relief

Microsoft yesterday reached a tentative $70m (about £38.5m) deal to settle a California class-action antitrust lawsuit, according to a statement by the law firm representing the plaintiffs in the suit.

The suit, filed by San Francisco law firm Townsend and Townsend and Crew in August 2004, was one of dozens of private antitrust suits brought against Microsoft in the wake of the US Department of Justice's antitrust proceedings against the software company.

The suit was filed on behalf of government entities in the California cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles, and counties of Santa Clara, San Mateo, Los Angeles and Contra Costa. The plaintiffs charged Microsoft with anticompetitive conduct, accusing the vendor of using its market position to overcharge for software.

The plaintiffs in the suit have approved the basic terms of the settlement, according to a press statement. The final version of the settlement is currently being negotiated and will be presented for final approval in a court in San Francisco.

According to Townsend and Townsend and Crew, the settlement benefits will be divided among the state and local government parties, which can use them to obtain cash refunds for computer hardware and software.

In a statement, Tom Burt, corporate vice president and deputy general counsel for Microsoft, said Microsoft values its relationship with the cities and counties named in the suit and is pleased to have reached a settlement in the case.

Microsoft has already settled a number of class-action suits with individual US states, resulting in the vendor agreeing to pay out millions of dollars to purchasers of its software in each state. The bulk of the cases were filed by the state on behalf of its private citizens; the case settled yesterday is the only one in which state governments filed separately, according to spokeswoman for Microsoft.

State antitrust cases in Iowa, Mississippi, Wisconsin and New Jersey are still pending.

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