The anti-trust case against Microsoft has kicked off again, with a number of Californian states taking out a new lawsuit against the software giant.

The city and counties of San Francisco and Los Angeles and counties of Santa Clara, San Mateo, and Contra Costa, all in northern California, announced on Monday a class action suit for the recovery of damages.

The suit claims that unlawful profits were garnered by Microsoft "as a result of Microsoft's combinations to restrain trade, destroy competition and monopolise the world markets for personal computer operating systems and word processing and spreadsheet software applications through a broad spectrum of acts and practices that have violated the antitrust and unfair competition laws of the State of California."

According to the lead counsel for the plaintiffs, Eugene Crew, the judge in the original out-of-court settlement between California and Microsoft excluded city and county governments from participating in the settlement. "The suit was settled for private consumers. Government consumers are every bit as deserving," said Crew. "They deserve to get the overcharges back."

Crew claims that Microsoft acquired an illegal monopoly, which is unlawful conduct, and then exercised that illegal monopoly to charge monopoly prices. "They not only robbed the bank, but they stole the gun they used to rob it with," said Crew.

Although no dollar figure was put on the suit, the original settlement with the State of California, which was only for consumers and businesses, was for about $1.1 billion. One of the counties' lawyers said that the city and counties of California were about 13 percent of total Microsoft sales in the state. The suit, if it goes to trial, could take as long as two to three years to be settled.

Stacy Drake, a spokeswoman for Microsoft, said that the company believes it has provided very competitive prices for its customers. As to the suit itself, Drake said that Microsoft had just learned of it on Friday. "Our legal team has not had a full opportunity to review and understand the complaint," he said.


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