Monday, January 12, 2004

Antitrust News: 'Innovation' no more at Lindows.com

A San Francisco judge has ruled that Lindows.com may not file voucher requests on behalf of consumers as part of the settlement of a California antitrust suit against Microsoft.

Last October I blogged about San Diego-based Lindows.com, which had set up a special website to facilitate an "instant settlement" of a 1999 lawsuit bought on behalf of California consumers against Microsoft. The lawsuit claimed Microsoft violated the California's antitrust and unfair competition laws, and under terms of its settlement, Microsoft agreed to provide vouchers ranging in value from $5 to $29 to consumers who submitted written claim forms.

Yet rather then have consumers submit their own claims against Microsoft, Lindows.com sought to file consumer's claims for them with so-called "digital signatures," in reality, nothing more then the claimant's name in a web form. In addition, it offered a free PC to the first 10,000 claims applicants and ever so conveniently, allowed consumers to purchase Lindows software with an advance on their settlement proceeds.

Unfortunately for Lindows.com's planned scheme to loot its Redmond rival, the terms of the settlement explicitly required claimants print out, sign and mail their claim forms and certify the accuracy of their claims. Superior Court of California Judge Paul Alvarado agreed, ruling that Lindows.com's attempt to file voucher requests for consumers was invalid and any claim it submitted on behalf of consumers was to be rejected.

This is good news. Lindows.com's attempt to cash in on the California antitrust suit was obnoxious. The California lawsuit was not about consumers injured by Microsoft. (The paltry number of consumers taking advantage of the settlement confirms that most consumers have no quibble with Microsoft.) This and all the other suits against Microsoft are about the software giant's rivals attempting to use antitrust to hobble an industry leader rather then compete with it head to head.

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