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Microsoft Corp. said Monday it had reached a settlement of a class action lawsuit filed by Minnesota customers who claimed the software giant overcharged them in violation of state antitrust laws. The settlement interrupted a jury trial that was expected to last several more weeks. Attorneys for the plaintiffs had said they were seeking as much as $505 million. The world’s biggest software company said final terms of the agreement were still being worked out. Company spokeswoman Stacy Drake would not say if the settlement would affect Microsoft’s earnings. The suit alleged that Microsoft violated Minnesota antitrust law by overcharging for its Windows operating system and its Excel and Word programs. The company denied the overcharges, saying prices for its products had dropped. Microsoft previously settled with nine states and Washington, D.C., paying out a total of $1.5 billion. Cases in 16 other states were dismissed. A case brought by the federal government ended with a settlement in 2001 that found that Microsoft used its operating system monopoly to strong-arm competitors. Last week, Microsoft agreed to pay $440 million to InterTrust Technologies Corp. to settle a 3-year-old patent infringement lawsuit over technology for protecting music, movies and other digital content against piracy. On April 2, Microsoft agreed to pay Sun Microsystems $1.6 billion to settle a private antitrust suit and resolve patent claims. In early afternoon trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market, Microsoft shares were up 25 cents at $25.41. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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