U will receive$5M in lawsuit

Minnesota filed a complaint against Microsoft in December 1999.

Ryan Dionne

The University will receive $5 million today from Microsoft because of a lawsuit settled in April between the corporation and the state of Minnesota.

Minnesota filed a complaint against Microsoft in December 1999 alleging the company had violated state and federal anti-trust laws, said Rick Hagstrom, a partner in the Minneapolis office of Zelle, Hoffman, Voelbel, Mason & Gate, the law firm that filed the suit.

Antitrust laws prevent corporations that have monopolies in their industries from overcharging customers, said Sharon Nelles, a partner in Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, the law firm that defended Microsoft.

More than 200 lawsuits were filed against the corporation since 2000, Nelles said.

“The only case that’s gone to trial is the case in Minnesota – so far,” she said.

Minnesota is one of 15 states whose case has been settled with Microsoft, Nelles said.

The whole trial would have taken approximately 15 to 20 weeks more if a settlement had not been reached, Hagstrom said.

The corporation was ordered to pay Minnesota a total of $182 million because of the settlement, Hagstrom said.

Much of it is reserved for past purchasers of Microsoft products.

Of the $5 million awarded to the University, half will be in cash and half in vouchers.

The vouchers can be used to buy any brand of computer, software, printer or other related technology in a similarway as a rebate, Hagstrom said.

The last day consumers who bought Microsoft merchandise could claim vouchers was Feb. 22, and those consumers will receive their vouchers around August, he said.

Though Microsoft was ordered to pay Minnesota a total of $182 million, the state will not receive all of the vouchers if they are not claimed, Hagstrom said.

So far, 110,753 total claims have been made by Minnesota consumers and businesses, including 16 of 19 Fortune 500 companies in the state, said Lindsey Davis, a partner in the law firm that filed the suit.

Half of the unclaimed vouchers will go to Minnesota public schools, Hagstrom said.

If the vouchers that consumers do claim aren’t used by 2009, which is when they expire, they will also be given to Minnesota public schools, Hagstrom said.

He said that in places such as California, schools did not get any settlement money, even though they might have received larger settlements.

The settlement comes at a time of budget cuts and increasing tuition at the University.

University General Counsel Mark Rotenberg said, “I’m very pleased that the University’s interest has been indicated in this matter, and I’m very pleased with the outcome.”

The University plans to invest the $5 million to fund a new program dubbed the Consortium for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, said Steven Crouch, the Institute of Technology dean.

The consortium connects the University’s Duluth campus to nine colleges at the University’s Twin Cities campus to create a collaboration between computer scientists and biologists, Crouch said.

“The 21st century is often considered to be the century of biology,” he said.

The settlement money will also help create eight new positions relating to the consortium, Crouch said.

Those eight will work with graduate students and possibly undergraduate students to conduct research, help create new or better drugs and develop cures, he said.

“I think this is going to be a huge opportunity in the future,” Crouch said.

The new program is one step toward University President Bob Bruininks’ plan to make the University a distinguished research institution, Hagstrom and Crouch said.