Microsoft disputes attempt to reinstate class in Vista suit

Microsoft is disputing an attempt to reinstate class-action status to an ongoing lawsuit against its Windows Vista Capable sticker program.

Microsoft is disputing an attempt to reinstate class-action status to an ongoing lawsuit against its Windows Vista Capable sticker program, a case that threatens to drag on and is reflective of the difficulties Microsoft has encountered by releasing its disappointing Windows Vista OS.

In court papers filed in a U.S. District Court in Seattle this week, Microsoft asked the court not to reconsider applying class-action status to the suit because people knew exactly which version of Vista they would receive through a coupon program called Express Upgrade Guarantee. The program allowed customers to buy PCs with Windows XP installed on them but then upgrade to Vista when the OS was released.

Microsoft also said that the plaintiffs took too long to ask for a narrowing of the class, even based on "theories known to them for more than a year," according to court papers.

The TechFlash blog Thursday posted a link to a PDF of Microsoft's most recent filing in the case, first brought against the vendor by plaintiff Dianne L. Kelley in April 2007.

Late last month, attorneys in the case asked the court to re-establish class by narrowing the scope of who could participate in the suit. This came a week after the judge in the case granted Microsoft's motion to dismiss the suit's class-action status but allowed it to go forward with six plaintiffs.

Plaintiffs now want the judge to allow the suit to apply to anyone who purchased Windows Vista Capable PCs in Microsoft's Express Upgrade Guarantee program. The Express Upgrade Guarantee program provided coupons to people who purchased Windows Vista Capable PCs so they could upgrade to the appropriate version of Vista either for free or for little cost once the OS was made available.

The overarching claim in the suit is that Microsoft's Windows Vista Capable sticker program, which theoretically let customers know which PCs were capable of running Vista before the OS was made generally available, was an example of deceptive business practices and violated consumer protection laws.

Microsoft's hardware partners began shipping PCs with the "Windows Vista Capable" logo in April 2006. However, the designation was potentially confusing, because a PC with the label was only guaranteed to run the least expensive, most basic version of Vista.

The case is scheduled to go to trial April 13; however, in last month's filing plaintiffs asked that the judge push back the trial date in case class is reinstated to give others time to join the suit. The judge has yet to respond to that filing.

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Elizabeth Montalbano

IDG News Service
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