PORTLAND — Three Mainers from the Portland area are suing Microsoft for allegedly using its monopoly power to drive up the price they paid for their computers and the operating systems that run them.
The lawsuits, filed last week by Barbara and Harvey Melnick of Falmouth and Dr. John Zerner of Portland, are among at least 40 that have been filed around the country since a federal judge ruled in November that Microsoft is a monopoly.
The ruling stemmed from a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Department of Justice and 19 states.
“Plaintiffs have been running to courthouses all over the country to reap the benefit of the government’s victory,” said Hillard Sterling, an expert in anti-trust and information technology cases with the Chicago law firm of Gordon and Glickson.
The number of plaintiffs in all the class action suits combined is expected to total in the millions. Each plaintiff stands to gain less than $100, but the total cost for Microsoft could reach more than $100 million.
With a market value of about $500 billion, Microsoft is the wealthiest company in the United States.
One of the Maine plaintiffs, Harvey Melnick, said his and his wife’s experience “has been that Microsoft hasn’t played fair in a lot of ways.”
The Melnicks joined the case at the request of their attorney, Robert Mittel, who is bringing the class action suit in Maine.
They qualified to join the lawsuit because they bought a computer this year with Windows 98 already installed.
Severin Beliveau, a Portland lawyer representing Microsoft in Maine, said the company hopes to get all the lawsuits combined into a single case.
“If they have to fight these cases in each state, it could be very expensive,” he said.
He said the civil cases were expected after the federal ruling in November that “some innovations that would truly benefit consumers never occur for the sole reason that they do not coincide with Microsoft’s self-interest.”
U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson is expected to rule by February on whether Microsoft broke anti-monopoly laws.