If companies and residents in California don't file simple claim forms by an early January 2005 deadline, they will turn their backs on a share of the $1.1 billion antitrust settlement against Microsoft. The deadline, which has already been extended by the California Superior Court, seems unlikely to be extended again.

Consumers shouldn't expect that the court will extend the deadline again, said Richard Grossman, a lawyer with the San Francisco law firm of Townsend and Townsend and Crew, which was the lead counsel in the class action antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft.

The Californian antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft charged that Microsoft used monopoly power to overcharge consumers and businesses for key software applications that they ran on desktop computers. In 2003, Microsoft signed a settlement, and the claim period has now been open for more than one year. Individuals and businesses not claiming before the deadline will lose out.