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Microsoft suffered yet another federal court setback Thursday. This time it happened in Danbury, Conn., where U.S. District Judge Janet Hall ordered the software giant to pay Bristol Technology a record $1 million in punitive damages for violating Connecticut’s Unfair Trade Practices Act. Hall’s ruling reopens a legal wound Microsoft had thought to be scabbed over. Bristol, which markets cross-platform software, sued Microsoft in August 1998, alleging that Microsoft illegally withheld a new Windows license from Bristol to undermine the competitive threat posed by Unix. Last July a jury found in Microsoft’s favor on Bristol’s allegation of federal antitrust violations and found against Microsoft on the unfair-practices charge. The jury awarded Bristol a symbolic $1 in damages. Hall found that award too small. “Stripped from the veil of Microsoft’s protestations that it merely engaged in highly competitive behavior, Microsoft’s deceptive statements � are, at their core, like a classic ‘bait and switch’ tactic perpetrated on the targeted ISVs [independent software vendors], developers and Unix users whom Microsoft sought to convert to Windows,” Hall wrote in an excerpt that Bristol quoted in a statement. In the same statement, Bristol CEO Keith Blackwell hailed Hall’s ruling as “a victory for Bristol, but more importantly, for consumers.” Microsoft spokesman Rick Miller said Microsoft would probably appeal Hall’s ruling. “We were pleased with the jury’s decision in favor of Microsoft,” Miller said. “Yesterday’s ruling was not consistent with the jury’s decision.” Hall has yet to issue a final ruling regarding the jury’s findings on Bristol’s allegation of federal antitrust violations. Bristol executive Jean Blackwell said the company wouldn’t decide whether to seek a new trial until Hall issues that ruling. Hall’s courtroom is just one of a plethora of legal fronts on which Microsoft is engaged. The company is still waiting to hear whether the U.S. Supreme Court will hear its federal antitrust case, including a breakup order from U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, or send Jackson’s final judgment back down to a federal appeals court for review. The Supreme Court is expected to announce its decision by early October. Microsoft also faces more than 100 private class actions in federal and state courts alleging that the company overcharged for its software products. On Aug. 29, a San Francisco judge certified a group of private cases filed in California state court as a class action representing millions of state residents. Related articles from The Industry Standard Judge OKs Class Action Against Microsoft Microsoft to Supreme Court: Just Say No to the Feds Microsoft Plays the Squeaky Wheel Copyright (c)2000 The Industry Standard

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