XP Downgrade Rights Suit Tossed Out Of Court

Windows Vista

Judge Marsha J. Pechman, of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, ruled that Los Angeles resident Emma Alvarado, who filed the suit, failed to show that Microsoft violated the Washington Consumer Protection Act's provision for "unjust enrichment." The original class action pertained to all U.S. customers who bought new PCs and paid for downgrades from Vista to XP, and the complaint was later amended to include Windows 7.

In June 2008, Alvarado purchased a new PC from Lenovo that came with Windows Vista Business pre-installed and paid an additional $59.25 to downgrade from Vista to Windows XP. The original filing didn't specify whether Lenovo or Microsoft levied that fee, but did note that Microsoft reaped "tremendous profits" by charging customers for the downgrade option.

As evidence, lawyers for the plaintiff argued that Microsoft extended the XP availability deadline on two occasions in 2008 in order to continue tapping the benefits of the downgrade rights system it had put in place. Microsoft denied charging or receiving royalties from customers exercising downgrade rights and said downgrade rights are simply an option that it offers to OEMs.

Some of the legalese in the original complaint sounded like it had been copied from the European Commission antitrust lawsuit playbook.

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"As the sole licensor of Windows Vista, Microsoft enjoys vast power over OEMs, which it has used and continues to use to stifle competition ... Since the introduction of Vista, Microsoft has effectively eliminated competition in the operating system PC market and created a monopoly position for itself in that market," read one portion of the filing.

Five months after the Windows 7 launch, not many organizations are thinking about downgrade rights, although a sizeable number are still using XP because they've yet to put their migration efforts in motion. Given the positive industry response to Windows 7, downgrade rights probably aren't going to be talked about for a while, but they are a part of a disastrous Vista legacy that Microsoft is trying hard to forget.