Court Sides with Microsoft in Lindows.com Dispute
The judges order, made on Dec. 22 and announced on Thursday by Microsoft Corp., marks the end of an effort by San Diego-based Lindows.com to promote the use of its MSFreePC.com Web site for the submission of consumer claims in the $1.1 billion settlement.
Lindows.com and Microsoft have waged a war of words in recent months over whether claims submitted through the Lindows.com site were valid. Lindows.com launched the site in September and offered immediate access to the Lindows.com desktop Linux operating system and other software that competes with Microsoft if the users would qualify for between $50 and $100 in settlement vouchers. It also promised a free network PC to the first 10,000 people to buy $100 in software.
Microsoft, of Redmond, Wash., argued that the Lindows.com process violated terms of the class-action settlement, reached in January 2003. In November, Microsoft asked Judge Paul H. Alvarado to reject settlement claims submitted through Lindows.com.
"We are pleased with the judges decision and remain committed to implementing this settlement," said Microsoft spokeswoman Stacy Drake, in a statement.
In his order, Alvarado ruled that claims filed through Lindows.com and its MSfreePC.com site were invalid and that the only authorized settlement Web site is www.microsoftcalsettlement.com, operated by claims administrator Rust Consulting Inc. Rust must request the names and mailing addresses of those who submitted claims through the Lindows.com site and mail them information on submitting paper claims.
Lindows.com CEO Michael Robertson said that his company will not turn over the names of about 15,000 consumers who have submitted claims totaling about $1 million. Instead, the company next week will notify those consumers itself about the judges decision.
Robertson criticized the ruling and said the official settlement Web site provides no way for consumers to file claims electronically, instead requiring a lengthy paper-based process.
"The losers here are the consumers," he said. "By not putting [the claims process] online, an enormous number of people will not take advantage of the settlement, and Microsoft will get to keep a big chunk of the money."
However, Microsoft said that the settlement includes a far-reaching process for notifying California consumers about how to submit claims. Consumers can use their portion of the settlement to buy non-Microsoft software and hardware, including products from Lindows.com, Drake said.
Meanwhile, Lindows.com and Microsoft also are embroiled in a legal battle over trademark infringement. Microsoft has claimed that the Lindows name violates its Windows trademarks.
A U.S. case is expected to go to trial early this year. A Swedish court has ordered a temporary injunction against Lindows.com pending the outcome of a lawsuit there.