Almost two years ago, Microsoft was sued over stickers that claimed particular PC’s were “Vista capable”. These stickers were designed to help consumers feel confident in buying a PC before Vista shipped, resting comfortably in the knowledge that, once Vista got out the door, their new machines would be able to run it. Except that turned out to be not-quite true: sure, the machines could run the most basic version of Vista, but they couldn’t tap in to a number of Vista’s much touted capabilities, like enhanced features and the Aero interface. Dianne Kelley filed suit through a Seattle law firm alleging the stickers amounted to a bait-and-switch tactic, and in February of 2008 the suit was granted class action status…potentially putting the Redmond software giant on the hook for many millions of dollars in damages, if they should lose the case.
Now, in a move that must come as something of a relief to Microsoft, federal judge Marsha Pechman has de-certified the plaintiff’s class action status in the suit, meaning that instead of facing a enormous potential class of plaintiffs, Microsoft only has to face down the six parties acting as named plaintiffs on the suit. Pechman cited testimony from Keith Leffler, an economist at the University of Washington and one of the plaintiffs’ expert witnesses, as one of the deciding factors in de-certifying the class action status. According to Pechman, Leffler’s analysis of the economic impact of the logo program was overly broad because it did not isolate out license sales of Windows XP from XP sales Microsoft would have made without the Vista-capable promotion.
“Approximately one year ago, this Court certified a class in this matter and allowed Plaintiffs to further develop their ‘price inflation’ theory,” Pechman wrote in her ruling. “It is now apparent that class treatment is no longer appropriate.”
However, Pechman did not grant Microsoft’s motion for a summary judgement and the case is still on track for trail with six plaintiffs. However, de-certifying the suit’s class action status takes much of the wind out of the cases’ sales, and it seems likely the individual plaintiffs will either let the case drop or pursue individual settlements with Microsoft.