NOTE 17 — CONTINGENCIES
Antitrust, Unfair Competition, and Overcharge Class Actions
A large number of antitrust and unfair competition class action lawsuits were filed against us in various state, federal, and Canadian courts on behalf of various classes of direct and indirect purchasers of our PC operating system and certain other software products between 1999 and 2005. We obtained dismissals or reached settlements of all claims made in the United States.
All settlements in the United States have received final court approval. Under the settlements, generally class members can obtain vouchers that entitle them to be reimbursed for purchases of a wide variety of platform-neutral computer hardware and software. The total value of vouchers that we may issue varies by state. We will make available to certain schools a percentage of those vouchers that are not issued or claimed (one-half to two-thirds depending on the state). The total value of vouchers we ultimately issue will depend on the number of class members who make claims and are issued vouchers. The maximum value of vouchers to be issued is approximately $2.7 billion. The actual costs of these settlements will be less than that maximum amount, depending on the number of class members and schools that are issued and redeem vouchers. We estimate the total cost to resolve all of the state overcharge class action cases will range between $1.9 billion and $2.0 billion. At June 30, 2012, we have recorded a liability related to these claims of approximately $500 million, which reflects our estimated exposure of $1.9 billion less payments made to date of approximately $1.4 billion mostly for vouchers, legal fees, and administrative expenses.
The three cases pending in British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec, Canada have not been settled. In March 2010, the court in the British Columbia case certified it as a class action. In April 2011, the British Columbia Court of Appeal reversed the class certification ruling and dismissed the case, holding that indirect purchasers do not have a claim. The plaintiffs have appealed to the Canadian Supreme Court, which will be heard in the fall of 2012. The other two actions have been stayed.
Other Antitrust Litigation and Claims
In November 2004, Novell, Inc. ("Novell") filed a complaint in U.S. District Court for the District of Utah (later transferred to federal court in Maryland), asserting antitrust and unfair competition claims against us related to Novell's ownership of WordPerfect and other productivity applications during the period between June 1994 and March 1996. In June 2005, the trial court granted our motion to dismiss four of six claims of the complaint. In March 2010, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Microsoft as to all remaining claims. The court of appeals reversed that ruling as to one claim. Trial of that claim took place from October to December 2011 and resulted in a mistrial because the jury was unable to reach a verdict. In July 2012, the trial court granted Microsoft's motion for judgment as a matter of law. Novell may appeal this decision.
Government Competition Law Matters
In December 2009, the European Commission adopted a decision that rendered legally binding commitments offered by Microsoft to address the Commission's concerns about the inclusion of Web browsing software in Windows. Among other things, Microsoft committed to display a "Browser Choice Screen" on Windows-based PCs in Europe where Internet Explorer is set as the default browser. Due to a technical error, we failed to deliver the requisite software to enable that display to PCs that came preinstalled with a version of Windows 7 called Windows 7 Service Pack 1. We did deliver the requisite software to PCs running the original version of Windows 7 and earlier editions of Windows. Following notification by the Commission of reports that some PCs were not receiving the update, we promptly fixed the error and advised the Commission of what we had discovered. PCs that come preinstalled with Windows 7 Service Pack are now receiving the Browser Choice Screen software, as intended. On July 17, 2012, the Commission announced that it had opened proceedings to investigate whether Microsoft had failed to comply with this commitment. The Commission stated that if a company is found to have breached a legally binding commitment, the company may be fined up to 10% of its worldwide annual revenue.
Patent and Intellectual Property Claims
In October 2010, Microsoft filed patent infringement complaints against Motorola Mobility ("Motorola") with the International Trade Commission ("ITC") and in U.S. District Court in Seattle for infringement of nine Microsoft patents by Motorola's Android devices. Since then, Microsoft and Motorola have filed additional claims against each other in the ITC, in federal district courts in Seattle, Wisconsin, Florida, and California, and in courts in Germany and the United Kingdom. In April 2012, following complaints by Microsoft and Apple, the European Union's competition office opened two antitrust investigations against Motorola to determine whether it has abused certain of its standard essential patents to distort competition in breach of European Union antitrust rules. In June 2012, we received a request for information from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission ("FTC") apparently related to an FTC investigation into whether Motorola's conduct violates U.S. law. The nature of the claims asserted and status of individual matters are summarized below.
International Trade Commission
The hearing in Microsoft's ITC case against Motorola took place in August 2011 on seven of the nine patents originally asserted in the complaint. In December 2011, the administrative law judge ("ALJ") issued an initial determination that Motorola infringed one Microsoft patent, and recommended that the ITC issue a limited exclusion order against Motorola prohibiting importation of infringing Motorola Android devices. In May 2012, the ITC issued the limited exclusion order recommended by the ALJ, which became effective on July 18, 2012. Microsoft has appealed certain aspects of the ITC ruling adverse to Microsoft; Motorola is expected to appeal the ITC exclusion order.
In November 2010, Motorola filed an action against Microsoft in the ITC alleging infringement of five Motorola patents by Xbox consoles and accessories and seeking an exclusion order to prohibit importation of the allegedly infringing Xbox products into the U.S. In April 2012, the ALJ found that Xbox products infringe four of the five patents asserted by Motorola. The ALJ subsequently recommended that the ITC issue a limited exclusion order and a cease and desist order. Both Microsoft and Motorola sought ITC review of the ALJ's findings. In June 2012, Microsoft filed a motion to terminate the investigation as to certain patents based on facts arising as the result of Google's acquisition of Motorola. The ITC determined that it would review the ALJ's initial determination in its entirety and remanded the matter to the ALJ (1) to apply certain ITC case precedent, (2) to rule on Microsoft's June 2012 motion to terminate, and (3) set a new target date for completion of the investigation. If the ITC issues an exclusion order or cease and desist order, it will be subject to Presidential review for up to 60 days, during which it is expected that Microsoft could import Xbox products subject to posting a bond. Should any order issue and survive Presidential review, Microsoft may be able to mitigate its impact by altering Xbox products so they do not infringe the Motorola patents.
U.S. District Court
The Seattle District Court case filed in October 2010 by Microsoft as a companion to Microsoft's ITC case against Motorola has been stayed pending the outcome of Microsoft's ITC case.
In November 2010, Microsoft sued Motorola for breach of contract in U.S. District Court in Seattle, alleging that Motorola breached its commitments to standards-setting organizations to license to Microsoft certain patents on reasonable and non-discriminatory ("RAND") terms and conditions. Motorola has declared these patents essential to the implementation of the H.264 video standard and the 802.11 Wi-Fi standard. In suits described below, Motorola or a Motorola affiliate subsequently sued Microsoft on those patents in U.S. District Courts, in the ITC, and in Germany. In February 2012, the Seattle District Court granted a partial summary judgment in favor of Microsoft ruling that (1) Motorola entered into binding contractual commitments with standards organizations committing to license its declared-essential patents on RAND terms and conditions; and (2) Microsoft is a third-party beneficiary of those commitments. Subsequently, the court rejected Motorola's argument that Microsoft had repudiated its right to a RAND license, and ruled a trial is needed to determine whether Motorola is in breach of its obligation to enter into a patent license with Microsoft and, if so, the amount of the RAND royalty. In April 2012, the court issued a temporary restraining order preventing Motorola from taking steps to enforce an injunction in Germany relating to the H.264 video patents. In May 2012, the court converted that order into a preliminary injunction. Motorola has appealed the court's injunction orders to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The Seattle court has set a trial to determine the RAND royalty to begin in November 2012.
Cases filed by Motorola in Wisconsin, California, and Florida, with the exception of one currently stayed case in Wisconsin (a companion case to Motorola's ITC action), have been transferred at Microsoft's request to the U.S District Court in Seattle. Motorola and Microsoft both seek damages as well as injunctive relief. No trial dates have been set in any of the transferred cases, and the parties have agreed to a stay of these cases.
- In the transferred cases, Motorola asserts 15 patents are infringed by many Microsoft products including Windows Mobile 6.5 and Windows Phone 7, Windows Marketplace, Silverlight, Windows Vista and 7, Exchange Server 2003 and later, Exchange ActiveSync, Windows Live Messenger, Lync Server 2010, Outlook 2010, Office 365, SQL Server, Internet Explorer 9, Xbox, and Kinect.
- In the Motorola action originally filed in California, Motorola asserts that Microsoft violated antitrust laws in connection with Microsoft's assertion of patents against Motorola that Microsoft has agreed to license to certain qualifying entities on RAND terms and conditions.
- In counterclaims in the patent actions brought by Motorola, Microsoft asserts 14 patents are infringed by Motorola Android devices and certain Motorola digital video recorders.
In July 2011, Motorola filed patent infringement actions in Germany against Microsoft and several Microsoft subsidiaries.
- Two of the patents are asserted by Motorola to be essential to implementation of the H.264 video standard, and Motorola alleges that H.264 capable products including Xbox 360, Windows 7, Media Player, and Internet Explorer infringe those patents. Motorola seeks damages and an injunction. In May 2012, the court issued an injunction relating to all H.264 capable Microsoft products in Germany. However, due to orders in the separate litigation pending in Seattle, Washington described above, Motorola is enjoined from taking steps to enforce the German injunction. Damages would be determined in later proceedings. Microsoft has appealed the rulings of the first instance court.
- Motorola asserts one of the patents covers certain syncing functionality in the ActiveSync protocol employed by Windows Phone 7, Outlook Mobile, Hotmail Mobile, Exchange Online, Exchange Server, and Hotmail Server. Motorola seeks damages and an injunction. In May 2012, the Court invited further argument and evidence from the parties relating to Microsoft's "prior use" defense. If the court rules in favor of Motorola, an injunction could be issued immediately relating to these products employing the ActiveSync protocol in Germany, which Motorola could then take steps to enforce. We expect the court to issue a ruling in August 2012. Damages would be determined in later proceedings.
- Should injunction orders be issued and enforced by Motorola, Microsoft may be able to mitigate the adverse impact by altering its products so they do not infringe the Motorola patents.
In lawsuits Microsoft filed in Germany in September, October, and December 2011 and in April 2012, Microsoft asserts Motorola Android devices infringe Microsoft patents. Microsoft seeks damages and an injunction. In May 2012, the court issued an injunction on one patent against Motorola Android devices in Germany and ruled against Microsoft on a second patent. If the court rules in favor of Microsoft in a given case, an injunction could be issued immediately relating to the sale of the infringing devices in Germany, which Microsoft could then take steps to enforce. Damages would be determined in later proceedings. Motorola has appealed the first instance court's ruling in Microsoft's favor.
In December 2011, Microsoft filed an action against Motorola in the High Court of Justice, Chancery Division, Patents Court, in London, England, seeking to revoke the UK part of the European patent asserted by Motorola in Germany against the ActiveSync protocol. In February 2012, Motorola counterclaimed alleging infringement of the patent and seeking damages and an injunction. A trial is expected in December 2012.
Other Patent and Intellectual Property Claims
In addition to these cases, there are approximately 60 other patent infringement cases pending against Microsoft.
We also are subject to a variety of other claims and suits that arise from time to time in the ordinary course of our business. Although management currently believes that resolving claims against us, individually or in aggregate, will not have a material adverse impact on our financial statements, these matters are subject to inherent uncertainties and management's view of these matters may change in the future.
As of June 30, 2012, we had accrued aggregate liabilities of $384 million in other current liabilities and $220 million in other long-term liabilities for all of our contingent legal matters. While we intend to defend these matters vigorously, adverse outcomes that we estimate could reach approximately $550 million in aggregate beyond recorded amounts are reasonably possible. Were unfavorable final outcomes to occur, there exists the possibility of a material adverse impact on our financial statements for the period in which the effects become reasonably estimable.