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Legal payouts of $511 million in one year would be enough to sink many companies. But for Microsoft, it amounts to a small victory.

That's what the Redmond company paid in legal settlements and related expenses in its fiscal year 2007, ended June 30. It was Microsoft's lowest total in years -- down from about $2.3 billion in payouts two years earlier.


But with cases still pending, most notably in Europe, it's not clear if the trend will continue.

The $511 million total for the year included payments in antitrust and unfair-competition class actions, intellectual property claims and a payment to extend a patent agreement with Sun Microsystems, Microsoft said in an Aug. 3 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

During the year, the company's highest-profile antitrust payout was the settlement of a consumer class-action suit in Iowa. Microsoft agreed to pay up to $180 million in that case.

In one sign of the change, legal subjects were barely mentioned during Microsoft's annual meeting with financial analysts in Redmond last month. In years past, antitrust issues weighed more heavily on the minds of analysts.

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