Another day, another billion dollar plus payout by Microsoft for one
form or another of theft, anti-trust breaches and general corporate
the software Goliath’s chief is feted by government and corporate
leaders around the world, there’s an enormous disconnect between the
company’s legal track record and its general public image. And, no, I’m
not one of the Apple Mac fanatics and I don’t run Linux.

Friday night’s billion dollar settlement
with IBM is just the latest in a very long line of settlements and
fines that one might suspect Bill Gates’s outfit just views as part of
the cost of maintaining its near-monopoly powers – and its massive
profit margins.

The payment to IBM settled anti-trust claims
involving discriminatory pricing and overcharge claims, which is all
rather ironic given that IBM gave Microsoft its future back when Big
Blue was stupid enough to think the money in personal computing was in
hardware and thus outsourced the key operating software. Now IBM
doesn’t even make the PCs it invented, having sold that division to a
Chinese manufacturer.

A cursory Google search comes up with
Microsoft’s US$1.95 billion patent infringement and anti-trust
settlement with Sun Microsystems, US$440 million settlement for
InterTrust Technologies Corp (patent infringement), the 497 million
Euro antitrust fine by the European Commission with the threat of more
if Microsoft doesn’t hurry up and comply with suggested competition
remedies, US$536 million to Novell (NetWare patents) with Novell still
suing over alleged sabotage of its word processing and spreadsheet
products, $150 million to Gateway (anti-trust), AOL/Time Warner US$750
million, US$1.1 billion or so settling the class action brought by
various American states, US$60 million for (patents), and so
on and so on.

Is there any company less likely to be infringing patents or abusing its market dominance?

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey