Vista Capable Lawsuit Granted Class-Action Status

Dennis Faas's picture

Late last week, a federal judge reportedly granted class-action status to a lawsuit alleging that Microsoft unjustly enriched itself by promoting PCs as "Windows Vista Capable", even when they could only run the "Vista Home Basic" version of the operating system.

As an attempt by Microsoft to maintain sales of Windows XP computers during the 2006 holiday shopping season, the "Windows Vista Capable" slogan was emblazoned on PCs after the release of Windows Vista was delayed.

At a hearing held two weeks ago, Microsoft lawyers argued that because each consumer who bought a computer labeled as "Windows Vista Capable" had different information at the time of purchase, the lawsuit should not be granted class-action status. Plaintiffs' lawyers argued that all individuals who bought "Windows Vista Capable" PCs were united in that "each person in our class did not get what they paid for." One plaintiff attorney quoted (extensively) internal Microsoft emails that appeared to show that employees within Microsoft had misgivings about the campaign.

Judge Marsha Pechman granted class-action status in her ruling, stating that "common issues predominate."

In her ruling, Judge Pechman wrote "these common issues ... are whether Vista Home Basic, in truth, can fairly be called 'Vista' and whether Microsoft's 'Windows Vista Capable' marketing campaign inflated demand market-wide for 'Windows Vista Capable' PCs."

Judge Pechman also narrowed the basis on which plaintiffs could move forward with their claims. She said that plaintiffs could not pursue a class-action lawsuit on the basis that consumers had been deceived because individualized analysis is necessary to determine what role Microsoft's "Windows Vista Capable" marketing program played in each class members' purchasing decision.

She also said that it was appropriate for plaintiffs to argue as a class that Microsoft had artificially inflated demand and prices for computers only capable of running Windows Vista Home Basic by marketing them as "Windows Vista Capable."

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