Novell Vs. Microsoft Ends In Mistrial

Jurors unable to reach a verdict on Novell's claims that Microsoft intentionally sought to destroy WordPerfect and Quattro.

Paul McDougall, Editor At Large, InformationWeek

December 20, 2011

2 Min Read

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Novell's years-long antitrust case against Microsoft came to an abrupt end in a federal courthouse in Salt Lake City after jurors said they were unable to reach a verdict, leading the judge to declare a mistrial.

Novell officials said the company may ask for a new trial, according to reports Monday.

Novell sued Microsoft in 2004, claiming the software maker "deliberately targeted and destroyed" its WordPerfect word processor and Quattro spreadsheet franchises because they were compatible with non-Windows operating systems. Novell also charged that Microsoft banished WordPerfect from the Windows 95 rollout in an effort to drive the application into obscurity.

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"Microsoft abused its monopoly power in the PC operating systems market to suppress the sales of WordPerfect and Novell's related Office productivity applications," Novell stated in its original complaint. "Bill Gates, Microsoft's chairman and [at the time] chief executive officer, targeted Novell's applications by name in documents recording Microsoft's anticompetitive schemes."

Gates denied the allegations during testimony last month. Microsoft has said it excluded Novell's apps from Windows 95 because they were unstable and caused Windows to crash.

Novell sold WordPerfect to Corel in 1996 at a loss of $1.2 billion, according to the company's court filings. The program has become a relic in the wake of Microsoft's dominance of the desktop applications market. Novell itself was acquired by Attachmate in April.

The tortuous tort was in its seventh year and had bounced back and forth between district and appeals courts. A federal appeals court revived the case earlier this year. By refusing to hear the case, the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008 left standing a lower court's ruling that Novell could proceed with the antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft.

In 2007, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld a district court's ruling that Novell's lawsuit could proceed.

Ironically, Microsoft and Novell have since become software market allies in the years since Novell filed the action. In 2006, the two vendors forged a partnership under which Microsoft resells Novell's SUSE Linux software and services.

Novell and Microsoft also worked out a $536 million settlement in 2004 to resolve Novell's claim that Microsoft plotted to ruin the market for the Novell NetWare operating system.

According to our Outlook 2012 Survey, IT should expect soaring demand but cautious hiring as companies use technology to try to get closer to customers. Also in the new, all-digital issue of InformationWeek: Inside Windows Server 8. (Free registration required.)

About the Author(s)

Paul McDougall

Editor At Large, InformationWeek

Paul McDougall is a former editor for InformationWeek.

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