Microsoft has reached a legal settlement to resolve class action lawsuits alleging that it violated Florida's antitrust and unfair competition laws.
The settlement was filed on Tuesday with Miami-Dade Circuit Court, and Judge Henry Hamage has given it his preliminary approval.
Under the terms of the settlement Microsoft is obliged to pay $202m, which may be claimed and distributed to class action members in the form of vouchers.
The plaintiffs, who purchased licences for Microsoft products between 16 November 1995 and 31 December 2002, can use the vouchers to buy desktop, laptop or tablet computers running any operating system or any software.
When Microsoft first proposed to offer vouchers in settlement of this action, the move met a storm of controversy as it was predicted that a substantial amount of the vouchers would go unclaimed.
To address this concern the Florida court has ruled that Microsoft must provide one half of any unclaimed settlement proceeds to the state's most needy schools in the form of vouchers.
The schools will be able to use the vouchers to purchase a wide range of computer equipment, software and training from any manufacturer.
"We are pleased by the opportunity to help hundreds of schools across Florida to get the computers and software they need," said Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith.
"This settlement allows us to focus on the future and building great software, and avoids the cost and uncertainty of a lengthy trial."
The court has set a hearing date of 24 November 2003 for final approval of the settlement.
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