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Report: 'Vista capable' lawsuit can move forward

Microsoft's appeal of class certification is spurned. This mean the class-action suit over the company's marketing techniques--and the discovery that's a big part of the case--can proceed.

Microsoft's appeal of class certification for the "Vista capable" lawsuit was spurned Monday, according to several media outlets.

The case revolves around customers' complaints that PCs they bought before Vista was released had been advertised as "Windows Vista capable" but turned out to be capable of running only the Home Basic version of Vista, which lacks some graphics features. Computers actually needed to be "Vista Premium Ready" to run the more-complete versions of the operating system. The court will need to determine whether Microsoft knowingly created confusion over the capabilities of PCs sold with these labels just before the release of Vista in early 2007.

The lawsuit has been on hold for several weeks pending a ruling from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Marsha Pechman granted class-action status to the lawsuit in February. Microsoft appealed that decision, saying the suit and the related discovery process would damage the company financially, and "intrude on sensitive pricing decisions and strategies by OEMs, wholesalers, and retailers."

Indeed, the discovery process has already revealed more than Microsoft would have liked early on--namely an e-mail by Microsoft executive Mike Nash complaining about his own confusion when buying a laptop labeled "Vista capable," and the embarrassing revelation that Intel had pressured Microsoft into creating the two-tiered marketing campaign so Intel could sell its lower-end chipsets.

On Monday, the Ninth Circuit declined to consider Microsoft's request. This means the lawsuit--and the juicy discovery process--can now resume.

In an e-mail to the Seattle Times, Microsoft spokesman Jack Evans said, "The Ninth Circuit's decision not to accept our request for interim review is not a ruling on the merits of our case. We look forward to the ultimate dismissal of what the district court itself said is a novel claim."