Tomorrow millions of California consumers and businesses will begin receiving forms allowing them to claim up to $1.1 billion in benefits from the settlement of an antitrust class action lawsuit against Microsoft Corporation. Over 10 million forms will be mailed during the next 60 days. Claim forms may also be obtained immediately online at www.microsoftcalsettlement.com or by calling 1-800-203-9995.
California consumers and businesses will now have an opportunity to recover a substantial portion of the prices they paid for all of their Microsoft operating system, spreadsheet and word processing software purchased during a seven year period ending in December 2001. Consumers can recover the first $100 of their benefits just by listing their eligible Microsoft product purchases on a claim form and signing their names. Even larger recoveries will be obtained by those who provide documentation of more than five purchases of eligible Microsoft products.
The settlement is expected to provide substantial relief to the thousands of California businesses whose technology budgets have been cut drastically in recent years, according to Eugene Crew and Richard Grossman, co-lead attorneys for the consumer class. Grossman observed, “Medium and large businesses will recover tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in benefits. Even the smallest businesses are likely to recover thousands of dollars.”
He added, “A computer systems manager would be derelict in his duties if he passed up this opportunity to beef up his technology budget. The claims process is pretty simple so we expect business owners and executives to quickly file their claims and pass along the news of this fabulous opportunity to their colleagues.”
After years of antitrust litigation directed at Microsoft, this is the first time that Californians will be able to recover the overcharges that Microsoft allegedly imposed upon its customers as a result of its monopoly in key software markets. While prior antitrust claims against Microsoft focused only upon its monopoly in desktop operating system software, the California class action settlement also covers alleged overcharges in word processing, spreadsheet and office productivity suite software.
Consumers and businesses with locations in California will be able to recover $16 for each copy they purchased of Microsoft’s Windows or MS-DOS operating systems, $29 for each copy of Microsoft Office, $26 for each copy of Microsoft Excel and $5 for each copy of Microsoft Word, Works Suite and Home Essentials 97 or 98. According to Grossman, the $1.1 billion represents a refund of approximately 22 percent of all the money paid for the eligible software by California’s consumers and businesses between February 1995 and December 2001. It is estimated that over 14 million Californians are eligible to make claims under the settlement.
Crew observed, “This is a great day for California antitrust law. We are confident this $1.1 billion settlement represents the largest recovery ever achieved for consumers under California’s antitrust statute, but people have to file their claims to get the benefits.” Crew added, “With so many people on the internet this should spread like wildfire. Consumers are going to forward the www.microsoftcalsettlement.com website to all their friends and family to make sure that everyone they know will be able to take advantage of the settlement.”
Consumers will be able to use their settlement benefits to obtain refunds on their future purchases of any manufacturer’s desktop or laptop computers as well as printers, scanners, monitors, keyboards, pointing devices (e.g. a mouse or trackball) or any noncustom desktop software made by any software developer for any operating system platform. According to Grossman, “It was extremely important to us that consumers have a choice of purchasing any competitive product they want. There was no way that we were going to limit the settlement benefits to Microsoft products.” Crew added, “After all, consumer choice is what our antitrust laws are all about.”
Originally founded in the 1860s and operating under the Townsend name since 1906, Townsend and Townsend and Crew LLP focuses on intellectual property law, teaming with businesses, inventors, entrepreneurs, scientists and investors to protect their innovative products and ideas. The firm offers a full range of intellectual property services: patent prosecution; licensing; trademark and copyright; and litigation, with additional expertise in antitrust; and other complex business litigation. With offices in San Diego, San Francisco, Palo Alto, Walnut Creek, Denver and Seattle, Townsend has more than 150 attorneys, many of whom have advanced technical degrees and extensive scientific and business experience. For more information, visit the firm’s Web site located at www.townsend.com.