Court Dismisses Pricing Suit Against Microsoft

FRAMINGHAM (06/23/2000) - It's two down and 135 to go for Microsoft in class action lawsuits that seek damages for alleged inflated software prices due to its monopoly.

This week, Judge Gene Porter of the Clark County District Court in Las Vegas granted Microsoft's motion to dismiss the Nevada case based on precedent from a 1977 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a case known as Illinois vs. Brick. In that case, the high court ruled that consumers can't sue a company on pricing issues under antitrust law if the company didn't directly sell them the product in question.

The dismissal was the second state court victory for Microsoft in as many weeks. This week, a judge in Portland, Oregon, cited the same Supreme Court precedent in dismissing a similar pricing suit that was filed in that state.

A Microsoft spokesman last week said the company hopes the decisions in Nevada and Oregon will help Microsoft build momentum against the other class action lawsuits filed against it since last fall. "We believe that [the dismissals] will impact many cases throughout the country," the spokesman said.

But Hillard Sterling, an attorney at Chicago law firm Gordon & Glickson, said he expects "a plethora" of the class action suits to survive Microsoft's dismissal motions.

"Many states have more flexible rules on consumer lawsuits [than Oregon and Nevada do]," Sterling said. As a result, he added, some state courts may permit the class action plaintiffs to press their cases despite the Supreme Court's 1977 ruling.

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