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Microsoft, Lindows scrap over claims site

The software giant demands that Linux software seller take down a Web site that helps customers process claims for a California legal settlement.

Microsoft has demanded that take down a Web site that offers to process customer claims from the settlement of a California class-action suit against the software giant.

In a letter sent to the software seller on Friday and reprinted in a Lindows announcement Monday, Microsoft attorney Robert Rosenfeld said that Lindows' MSfreePC site includes false and misleading information and encourages filing of fraudulent claims. The letter also demands that Lindows take down the site by noon PT Monday or face legal action by Microsoft.

Lindows announced the MSfreePC service earlier this month, offering to file claims on behalf of current and former California residents who qualify for proceeds from the $1.1 billion settlement of a class-action suit claiming Microsoft overcharged for its Windows operating system. People who submit a valid claim through the Lindows site receive an immediate credit in the amount of their anticipated settlement, good for the purchase of Lindows software or hardware.

The first 10,000 people to submit claims will also get a free WebStation, a stripped-down network PC that the company introduced earlier this year. Network computers have struggled to catch on, despite several efforts during the 1990s.

Lindows CEO Michael Robertson said he wanted to make it as easy as possible for people to claim settlement awards, which range from $5 to $29. If few eligible consumers go through the claims process, Microsoft could pay out considerably less than the maximum $1.1 billion dictated by the settlement.

But the Lindows service won't result in any valid claims, according to Rosenfeld, because it fails to meet several requirements detailed in the settlement. For starters, claims must be submitted with an actual signature.

"Claim forms submitted through the Web site will be invalid because they will not be signed," according to his letter. "Instead, these claims will include only the claimant's typed name (called a 'digital signature' by the Web site), which is invalid under the settlement agreement."

The agreement also specifically prohibits third parties from filing claims on the behalf of others, according to the letter, which alleges that the Lindows service encourages the filing of fraudulent claims by not presenting claimants with the terms of the settlement or adequately quizzing them on qualifying purchases.

"The Web site's clear objective is to encourage claimants to maximize the amount of their claims rather than submit claims that accurately reflect purchases made or benefits to which they are entitled," the letter said.

A Lindows representative said early Monday that the company was still reviewing the letter. The MSfreePC site was still operating as of Monday morning. Microsoft representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Lindows is no stranger to Microsoft lawyers. The software giant sued the company shortly after Robertson formed it, claiming the name infringes on Microsoft's Windows trademark. That case is set to go to trial in December.