Facebook Twitter

Is Microsoft’s N.M. deal part of a legal strategy?

SHARE Is Microsoft’s N.M. deal part of a legal strategy?

WASHINGTON — After New Mexico surprised other states by settling its antitrust suit against Microsoft, a legal expert who has followed the case suggested that the software maker is trying to chip away at its pursuers.

"It is a very interesting strategic move by Microsoft to basically try to sort of break up the state coalition by offering to settle," Howard University law professor Andy Gavil said. "It suggests that Microsoft has got a strategy afoot to try to placate the states by offering to pay attorneys' fees."

In addition to the attorneys' fees — which in the case of New Mexico were about $100,000 over the life of the four-year case — New Mexico will share in whatever final remedies come at the case's conclusion.

New Mexico Attorney General Patricia Madrid made the announcement Thursday, a day after Microsoft said it would change the way it licenses its Windows operating system to computer makers.

"I was encouraged that Microsoft made some concessions yesterday — that was a very good first step," Madrid said.

Microsoft spokesman Vivek Varma said the company "was pleased to have this matter resolved." Varma added that Microsoft is committed to working with other government officials to resolve the remaining issues in the case.

Varma wouldn't comment on how the settlement came about, or whether the company is pursuing similar deals with the 18 other states that are suing the company.

"We're just not saying anything on the details on the discussions," Varma said, "if in fact we are having discussions."

Justice Department spokeswoman Gina Talamona said the department had no comment.

Madrid said her decision was in the best interest of New Mexicans and that the cost of the suit was too high.

"An important element of this settlement between New Mexico and Microsoft is that my state will receive the benefit of any and all remedies imposed upon Microsoft in the resolution of this lawsuit with any and all of the remaining litigating states and the U.S. Department of Justice," she said.

Two weeks ago, a federal appeals court ruled that Microsoft had operated as an illegal monopoly and harmed consumers. But the court reversed the trial judge's order breaking up the company, and sent the case back to a different lower court judge to decide a new penalty.

Shortly after the ruling, both sides hinted a settlement was possible.