Supreme Court won't block Novell's antitrust suit against Microsoft

Supreme Court won't block Novell's antitrust suit against Microsoft

Summary: On the opening day of Novell's BrainShare conference comes the news that the U.S. Supreme Court won't block Novell's antitrust suit against Microsoft over WordPerfect. Do you think Novell has a legitimate leg to stand on, in this case?


On the opening day of Novell's BrainShare conference comes the news that the U.S. Supreme Court won't block Novell's antitrust suit against Microsoft over WordPerfect.

WordPerfect, for those not steeped in industry history, is a word-processing product that used to be a credible competitor to Microsoft Word back in the late 1980s/early 1990s.

In 2004, Novell settled one potential antitrust suit with Microsoft involving NetWare for $536 million. But Novell refused to settle with Microsoft over WordPerfect and filed an antitrust suit against the company that just handed it a half-billion dollar check, seeking unspecified damages.

The crux of Novell's case against Microsoft should sound familiar by now: Novell is claiming that Microsoft withheld interoperability information it needed to enable WordPerfect to run well on Windows. Microsoft tried to get Novell's complaint dismissed, claiming that it was Novell's "own mismanagement and poor business decisions" that tanked WordPerfect. Plus, Microsoft argued, since Novell sold WordPerfect to Corel now 12 years ago, their claims should be barred under the Statute of Limitations.

Update: Here is Microsoft's statement on the Court's decision, which a company spokesman released this afternoon:

"We realize the Supreme Court reviews a small percentage of cases each year, but we filed our petition because it offered an opportunity to address the question of who may assert antitrust claims.  We look forward to addressing this and other substantive matters in the case before the trial court. We believe the facts will show that Novell’s claims, which are 12 to 14 years old, are without merit."


What's your take? Does Novell have a legitimate leg to stand on, here? Or is this just one more example of companies using Microsoft as an ATM when they need a cash infusion?

Topics: Microsoft, Enterprise Software, Open Source, Security, Software


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Novell's 'Bad Decisions'

    Novell says the evidence includes a 1994 e-mail in which Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates ordered a delay in providing the data to give Microsoft's own Office software ``a real advantage.'' Without the delay, Gates wrote, ``we can't compete'' with ``WordPerfect/Novell.''

    So much for 'Bad Decisions'. Microsoft will lose this lawsuit. Common sense will prevail.

    • And the current survey results show

      that ABM'ers, people with no knowledge of history or sense of justice, aren't a big majority.

      • Did you SEE

        the survey reports? Do you understand the use of bar graphs? Are you married to M$?
    • no... it was OS/2

      Knowing someone that was intimately involved (an employee working on WordPerfect), the real reason was that WordPerfect bet on OS/2--nothing else. When that failed, they were left scrambling to put together a Windows 95 version, and it was a disaster. Many people called it the "24-bit" version of WordPerfect.

      There may be plenty of other extraneous details surrounding this--there always are, life is complicated--but that's the real reason from an insider at WordPerfect. WordPerfect's mistakes/poor judgment led it to where it is today... whatever else happened isn't really relevant.
      • Everybody Knew somebody, but MS still didn't play fair.

        Did Wordperfect for OS2 come out first, yes.

        Did MS provide information for the developement of Wordperfect for Windows, no.

        Did MS push huge discounts for buying Word, even give it away to build market share, yes.

        Did MS in not so many words let some PC manufacturer believe they had to include Word or do without MS altogether,... I think we both know what people say about that.
  • Ancient history

    Who actually uses WordPerfect? I took a look at the WordPerfect site to refresh my memory, and it's still not even good. It looks so much like Office 2000 and probably works the same way.

    Corel/Novell or whoever should actually improve the WordPerfect suite than complain to antitrust folks and get some money.

    OpenOffice has gained popularity for being free. Then there's other online office suites that are also free and have users. WordPerfect is a loser because it's just not with the times.

    And Microsoft Office is top used for a reason - it's actual quality with tons of great features, especially in 2007. So stop complaining and do something real.
    • Who actually uses WordPerfect?

      That's the point of the suit: Microsoft used it's OS power to
      gain market share for Word and ruin WordPerfect's share.

      • This is what tanked Word Perfect

        Well two things really.

        First was price. Word Perfect was way over priced and ripe for the picking for competition back in the day.

        Second was the delay in getting a Windows version out when Windows 95 came out. One might argue that this delay was caused by Microsoft but that's very arguable and really not the main reason for Word Perfects fall from use.
        • here for more reasons

          • Failed to mention....

            1. The fact that at the time of WP purchase by Novell, WP was the dominate choice for word processing.

            2. The fact that WP was sold to Novell at a time when WP knew MS was going to pass them in a year or 2. And when a new product was getting introduced and not tested thoroughly.

            3. Novell, a HIGH END Networking Company, decided to use their customer service dept. who were use to dealing with highly educated technically inclined customers to talk to the 1000% plus calls coming in from people that may not even have a high school diploma.

            4. Novell spent Billions to buy WP, Zero to develope a better version (5.1 for Windows to 5.2 was to get the Novell name on the box, and Version 6 came too late and wasn't much of an improvement), sold it 3 years later for a 10th of what they paid for it.

            Their main problem was the customer service. You get enough secretaries and college students mad at your program because they can't get help, they will start using the other program that came free with the new computer they bought.
        • WordPerfect did themselves in

          And other reasons why WordPerfect tanked was that the company would not listen to the beta testers on the Windows platform. Super small font sizes in release 1, usablility, speed... all issues brought up to the development team and the response was, "That's Windows" When it was pointed out that other applications by other vendors didn't have the problems, the answer was silence. Darn shame. In the DOS days, it was a great, geart word processor. Like today's Microsoft, it got to thinking that being number one goes on forever.. as did Borland, Aston-Tate, AOL, Netscape, etc, etc.
        • WordPerfect for Windows, back in the day...

          ...I remember when Word 6 and WP 6 (I believe it was WP 6 at least) came out. While Word 6 promised support of longer file names when Windows 95 and Windows NT4 came out, WordPerfect 6 had full support of it ON WINDOWS 3.1! Also, at this point, WordPerfect 6 had more features than Word 6 did as well. What killed WordPerfect Corporation was the jump to 32-bit.
        • Sorry...

          but did you read the email sent from Gates to whom ever?
          Perhaps this is the reason they failed to have a version ready?
        • WP was a decent word processor...

          until MS$ doomed it by not supplying needed info. And, WP didn't need to do a W95 version due to the fact that 95 was a GUI that "sat on top of DOS" hence the term graphicial user interface. You could, also run DOS versions of programs on/in 95. Even today not all of the OS is loaded into memory. When I was in college I reviwed a word processor that was half the cost (250) of Word 1./2 and did all but 3 of the functions that Word did. MS$ stole a number of "their" SW from companies like Stacker to name one. MS$ whole history is one of deceit and thief of superior products. Sort of a twist on "if you can't beat 'em, steal 'em"
      • Who Uses WordPerfect? I do, for one.

        Since the DOS days, I have been a WordPerfect user and still use it by preference today. I have also had to come to terms with Word because everything I get from other people ends in ".doc" -- which doesn't always translate well into WP. Word's documents are bloated with code which is still essentially inaccessible. In my classroom, where we use WordPerfect, all I have to do is open the Reveal Codes window and guide my 11 and 12 year old students to figure out why the text looks funny. Kids ask how to do it in Word. Sorry, kids. Further, WordPerfect is document-oriented rather than paragraph-oriented by default; changes affect the text from the cursor onward, not just to the end of the paragraph. And do I think Micro$oft made a deliberate effort to prevent WordPerfect from running perfectly under Windows? You bet I do. Go, Novell!
        • Re: Who Uses WordPerfect? I do, for one.

          I'm glad I never got computer lessons from you. You are teaching your pupils obsolete, rarely used software instead of the mainstream apps? That's really a shame, you're spoiling kids for your own principals.
          • I also use WordPerfect

            WordPerfect, though not the current most popular, has many features not found in Word and gives one many options at manipulating and correcting documentation that Word ignores. Because a software is not a currently most popular, doesn't preclude that it is worthless. Rather, that maybe it should be the most popular.
          • computer lessons

            It seems a good idea to show kids how code works and to understand why some things do or don't work. M$ just wants no-questions-asked compliance.
        • Word Perfect is a superior word processor

          Unfortunately, Microsoft was more crafty in their marketing.
          • You got that Right!

            They do what they do the best - and don't cost as much as that bloat ware that the other company puts out.