Microsoft to Start Paying $1 Billion in California Class-Action Settlement

California consumers and businesses will soon receive $1.1 billion in delayed payouts from Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) to settle antitrust claims against the world's biggest software maker, lawyers in the case said on Wednesday.

Beginning in August, Californians who have filed claims will receive vouchers that can be redeemed for cash during the next four years, said Richard Grossman, whose law firm represented plaintiffs in the class-action case.

A California court had approved the settlement in July 2004, but a single class member had held up distribution of the money over his objection that the agreement called for unclaimed benefits to go to the state's public schools.

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But lawyers said the California payouts got back on track after the man objecting to the settlement lost his appeals and missed a deadline last week to further argue his case.

Most of the other agreements also call for unclaimed benefits to go to public schools, and some states have already begun distributing the settlement money.

Most California consumer claims total under $100, but many could exceed that amount depending on how much software was purchased, Grossman said.

The claims for businesses typically range from tens of thousands of dollars to millions of dollars, he said.

Microsoft has settled similar lawsuits with about 16 states plus the District of Columbia which charged the company with using its Windows monopoly to thwart competition and overcharge customers for its software products.

The California agreement, which marked the biggest between the software maker and U.S. states, covers anyone in the state who bought certain Microsoft software between February 18, 1995 and December 15, 2001."