New Mexico settles with Microsoft

ITworld.com |  Government

New Mexico said yesterday it has settled its antitrust claims against Microsoft Corp., the first of 19 states attorneys general to bow out of the legal battle since Microsoft was deemed last year to be a predatory monopolist by a U.S. District Court.

New Mexico Attorney General Patricia Madrid said she had negotiated a deal with Microsoft to pull out of the lawsuit, which charged the software giant with using its monopoly power in the PC operating systems market illegally to harm competitors in other fields.

"It was a very simple settlement in which Microsoft agreed that New Mexico would get the benefit of anything negotiated with the Department of Justice and any remaining states," Madrid said in a telephone interview. "Microsoft also agreed to pay the attorneys' fees and costs for the state." She estimated that cost to be about US$100,000.

New Mexico's action comes one day after Microsoft made a significant concession in the case, allowing PC manufacturers to remove Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser from Windows and allow software from Microsoft rivals to show up on Windows PCs.

Madrid applauded the other state attorneys general who are still locked in battle with the Redmond, Washington, software maker, but said New Mexico did not have a vested interest in how behavioral remedies against Microsoft are crafted. She also said the cost of continued litigation was too great for New Mexico.

"In the future, if this case was to go into litigation on the issue of a breakup or structural remedies, I think the burden could become onerous on the state of New Mexico," said Madrid, who inherited the case from her predecessor. "It puts the (remaining) states in a very good position for negotiating," she added.

Microsoft spokesman Jim Desler said the company did not plan to release details of any settlements it reaches.

"We are pleased to have resolved this matter with the state of New Mexico and we thank Attorney General Patricia Madrid for her leadership in hammering out this settlement," Desler said.

A federal appeals court delivered a ruling late last month in the landmark antitrust case between Microsoft and the U.S. government, sending the case back to a lower court to be reviewed by a new judge while upholding a lower court's April 2000 verdict that Microsoft acted illegally to maintain its monopoly.

Since then, Microsoft officials have indicated a renewed interest in settling the case. Thursday, the company reiterated its keenness to resolve the case out of court, noting that it is "committed to working with the federal government and the remaining state attorneys general to resolve the remaining issues in this case," Desler said.

One legal expert said the settlement is a significant win for Microsoft but doesn't portend a speedy conclusion to the case.

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