Microsoft wins motion to dismiss Novell antitrust suit

A U.S. federal judge has finally laid to rest a long-running suit against Microsoft --- brought by Novell --- over alleged antitrust behavior.

Finally. After nearly a decade of to-ing and fro-ing from the courtroom, a U.S. judge has ended a suit that allege antitrust issues as far back as the launch of Windows 95.

Following an eight-week trial ending in December with a hung jury, Novell was pressing for close to $1 billion in damages for antitrust violations committed by Microsoft while Microsoft founder Bill Gates was still at the helm.

But today, U.S. District Judge Frederick Motz ruled that Novell can no longer pursue the case against Microsoft.

In the ruling, Motz wrote:

"Although Novell presented evidence from which a jury could have found that Microsoft engaged in aggressive conduct, perhaps to monopolize or attempt to monopolize the applications market, it did not present evidence sufficient for a jury to find that Microsoft committed any acts that violated s.2 [of the Sherman Act; U.S. antitrust laws] in maintaining its monopoly in the operating systems market. Therefore, Microsoft’s motion [to dismiss] will be granted."

Utah-based Novell kicked off the suit in 2004 claiming Gates' decision a decade earlier to pull away from supporting its WordPerfect and Quattro Pro software. Novell said this broke U.S. antitrust laws because the move was to harm WordPerfect's chance to compete --- only a year after Novell bought the office software to compete with Microsoft outside of the networking space. 

Novell claimed Microsoft held back on interoperability details needed to make its software work on Windows, but Microsoft fired back with its own retorts that the company's own "mismanagement" was to blame.

Microsoft's Office suite ultimately took off well ahead of Novell's, while the rival said it had to rewrite the software following Microsoft's withdrawing of support. This ultimately delayed Novell's push to getting its products on the market, which gave Microsoft Office enough time to storm ahead. 

After much back and forth, Novell settled one potential antitrust suit with Microsoft over NetWare for $536 million, but held back on settling over its WordPerfect and Quattro Pro suits.

David Howard, Microsoft's deputy general counsel, today said: "We’ve maintained throughout this case that Novell’s arguments lack merit, and we’re gratified with today’s ruling dismissing the last of Novell’s claims and putting this matter to rest."

Novell did not respond for comment.

Update on July 17, 3:50 p.m. BST: corrected the dates. The claims stem back to around the launch of Windows 95, but the court case did not begin until 2004.

Image credit: Wikipedia via CBS News.

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