West Virginia drops Microsoft suit

West Virginia will drop its appeal against last year's ruling in the federal antitrust case against Microsoft Corp., at the same time settling a class action lawsuit over unfair competition, in a settlement worth a total of US$21 million, Microsoft said in a statement Monday.

To settle class action consumer lawsuits brought in West Virginia's Boone and Ohio counties, Microsoft will offer West Virginia consumers $18 million in vouchers for hardware, software or professional development services, to be spent on Microsoft or non-Microsoft products, said Microsoft spokesman Jim Desler.

Residents of West Virginia will have four months to make a claim under the settlement, and successful claimants will receive vouchers for either $5 or $10 depending on what they bought, he said. Half of any unclaimed vouchers will be given to West Virginia's most needy public schools, he added.

In addition, the company will give vouchers for hardware, software or services worth a further $1 million to state schools, and vouchers worth $700,000 to the Office of the West Virginia Attorney General to be distributed at his discretion, Microsoft said in the statement. The remaining $1.3 million will be paid to the state, in part to cover the administrative cost of distributing the vouchers. The deal has received the preliminary approval of the court of settlement, Microsoft said.

Microsoft announced the settlement Friday of a similar class action lawsuit in North Carolina in a deal worth $89 million.

By dropping its appeal against District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly's November ruling in the federal antitrust case, West Virginia leaves Massachusetts as the only state still fighting the ruling, Microsoft said in the statement. The two states had been holding out for a tougher ruling.

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