A federal appeals court has ruled that consumers who purchased Microsoft software indirectly cannot sue the company in Federal Court for claims related to the US Department of Justice's antitrust suit.
The unanimous decision of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Kloth vs Microsoft dismissed all claims in a federal suit that attempted to create a nationwide class of people who purchased Windows, Word and other Microsoft software during the 1990s but did not buy it directly from Microsoft.
The decision affirmed a lower-court decision made previously by Maryland District Court Judge J Frederick Motz, stating that a consumer class of indirect purchasers may not recover alleged overcharges by Microsoft, a company spokesperson said.
In an email statement, he called the decision of the appellate court a significant milestone for Microsoft.
"This ruling ... essentially marks the end of this case," he said. However, the plaintiffs can appeal to the US Supreme Court.
Microsoft has already settled a number of class-action suits with individual US states, resulting in the vendor agreeing to pay out millions of dollars to purchasers of its software in each state. Some state cases are still pending.
The plaintiffs in the federal class-action suit had bought hardware from OEMs or retailers on which the software was already installed. They argued that even though they were indirect purchasers, they still had a direct economic relationship with Microsoft.
Therefore, they argued Microsoft caused direct injuries by suppressing competitive technologies, restricting the terms of end-user licenses and degrading computer performance.
Christopher Lovell, one of the lawyers who argued the case for the plaintiffs, was not immediately available for comment.