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12/24/2009
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Court: Microsoft Must Pay Law Firm $5.6 Million

An appeals court orders the software giant to pay a law firm that had opposed it in antitrust litigation.

The bonanza for attorneys opposing Microsoft in consumer antitrust litigation continues to pay dividends. A Wisconsin appeals court this week ordered the software firm to pay $5.6 million to a law firm that opposed Microsoft in consumer antitrust litigation.

The case, and similar cases, filed in states across the U.S. involved charges that Microsoft had overcharged for software purchased by consumers beginning in the 1990s.

In this week's ruling, the Wisconsin District 1 Court of Appeals sided with the law firm, Zelle, Hofmann, Voebel & Mason LLP, which represented consumers in the antitrust case. Microsoft had sought to deny attorneys fees in the case, but the court disagreed.

Earlier, in 2006, the Circuit Court of Wisconsin said that Microsoft and opposing attorneys had agreed that Microsoft would distribute $223,896,000 in vouchers to Wisconsin consumers and businesses, according to a settlement.

Most of the U.S. cases stem from lawsuits filed by law firms claiming consumer fraud on the part of Microsoft. The charges were denied by the software giant, which denied that it did anything wrong.

In Wisconsin, the settlement called for Microsoft to give vouchers for cash after the purchase of various software and computer hardware products. For instance, a $23 voucher was made available for each Microsoft Office copy. The Wisconsin claims had to be filed by July 2007.

To date, no figures have been made available on the amount of cash or products that have been cashed in by consumers and businesses. In California, where more than $1 billion in vouchers and products were potentially available in the litigation, a small minority of eligible recipients took advantage of the California class action proceeding.

At one point, the Settlement Recovery Center, which assists businesses and non-profits making claims in class actions, said fewer than one million claims out of a potential 14million claims were filed in California.

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