Court Dismisses Novell Suit Against Microsoft

With a federal judge tossing the last two of six accusations by networking software firm Novell against Microsoft, is the case finally over?


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One of Microsoft's longest running antitrust adversaries may no longer be on its fight card.

A U.S. District Court judge for the District of Maryland dismissed the final two counts against Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) by Novell (NASDAQ: NOVL) on Tuesday in an antitrust suit involving the networking vendor's former WordPerfect Office suite of products.

Barring reinstatement by a federal appeals court, the case, which was filed in 2004, is effectively over.

"We are pleased and gratified by the court's ruling, dismissing these very old claims," Kevin Kutz, Microsoft director of public affairs, said in an e-mail to InternetNews.com.

Over recent years, the suit, which included claims that Microsoft had abused its monopoly position in productivity applications to subvert Novell's attempts to break the software giant's stranglehold in that market, had already been whittled down substantially.

In Tuesday's ruling, U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz said that Microsoft did not foreclose Novell's ability to sell its WordPerfect Office vis-à-vis Microsoft Office.

Microsoft has had several court clashes with Novell over the years.

During a period in the mid-1990s, Novell did its best to go toe-to-toe with Microsoft in areas ranging from desktop operating systems, to network operating systems, to desktop productivity applications. To further those aims, Novell acquired the WordPerfect applications, as well as a competitor to what was then still an important market in desktop operating systems -- DR-DOS.

Novell subsequently sold off both sets of products in the mid-1990s, with the WordPerfect apps going to Corel.

In 2004, the software giant gave Novell $536 million in order to withdraw its antitrust complaint to the European Commission regarding its NetWare networking software.

However, a few days later, Novell sued Microsoft in the U.S. regarding the WordPerfect Office applications, including the WordPerfect word processor and the Quattro Pro spreadsheet.

In 2007, the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disqualified four of Novell's accusations from the case due to expiration of the statute of limitations, but let the remaining portions of the suit proceed.

Microsoft appealed further and, in 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the software company's appeal.

However, there may be more yet to come, with Novell vowing to look for an appeal of its own in the case.

"We are disappointed," the company said in a statement, which added that it "does intend to seek appellate court review."

"Novell remains confident in the fundamental validity of its claims," the company said.

Update adds comments from Novell.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

Tags: Microsoft, lawsuits, Novell, antitrust, WordPerfect

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