Microsoft is no stranger to legal battles. But a new lawsuit that is threatening class action status could have a severe impact on Microsoft if it makes it all the way through the legal system.
The plaintiff, a film editor living in Los Angeles, is suing Microsoft for "shoddy work" in software that led to vulnerabilities in security, allowing identity thieves to steal her identity. "Her financial information was compromised, and bank accounts were compromised or seized to the extent that law enforcement became involved," said her attorney.
The lawsuit is requesting class action status against Microsoft in an effort to recover damages from anyone suffering from security holes in Microsoft software.
Observers believe the case will be a tough one to win. The damage suffered by the plaintiff was done by criminal activity, and not by Microsoft, points out intellectual property attorney Mark Radcliffe, of the firm Gray, Cary, Ware & Freidenrich. "Generally, you are not responsible in court for somebody who has acted criminally," he said.
While it is sympathetic with victims of identity theft, and while it has pledged publicly to improve the security of its software, Microsoft has indicated that it will vigorously fight the claims made against it.
"We will actively defend ourselves against the proposed causes of action, as well as the proposed class action certification," said company spokesman Sean Sundwall. "The complaint misses the bigger point, which is that the problems caused by viruses and other attacks are caused by criminal acts by the people writing the viruses."