The short answer is no.
The long story: I looked on the web, but there was suspiciously little information available. The best I found was this Linux Journal Article, and going to court sounded like too much trouble for me. I also Asked Slashdot, and while the discussion was interesting, there was little useful information there.
But here is the interesting twist: I went to Microsoft’s web site and checked out the Windows XP Professional License, which definitely sounded like I could return the software and keep the computer:
“This EULA is a legal agreement (…) for the Microsoft software product identified above (…) (“Product”). (…) IF YOU DO NOT AGREE, DO NOT INSTALL OR USE THE PRODUCT; YOU MAY RETURN IT TO YOUR PLACE OF PURCHASE FOR A FULL REFUND.”
However, when I actually looked at the license of the laptop I bought, it turned out that it had a different license! And it was very specific about not being able to return the software without returning the computer at the same time:
“This EULA is a legal agreement between you (…) and the manufacturer of the computer system or computer system (“HARDWARE”) with which you acquired the Microsoft software product(s) identified on the Certificate of Authenticity (“COA”) affixed to the HARDWARE. (…) IF YOU DO NOT AGREE TO THE TERMS OF THIS EULA (…) YOU SHOULD PROMPTLY CONTACT MANUFACTURER FOR INSTRUCTIONS ON RETURN OF THE UNUSED PRODUCT(S) FOR A REFUND. (…) The SOFTWARE is licensed with the COMPUTER as a single integrated product.
How twisted! Not only do they explicitly state that I cannot return the software, they also state that the software is “bound” to this computer. Well, on the other hand, by using a license like this, they probably only payed a fraction of the official XP price for the software. I’ll keep Windows around on a small partition, as a backup, but this license still bothers me.