Novell beats SCO, but gets trumped by Microsoft

Novell's big news is that it finally beat SCO in the Linux copyright case. But quietly, it's also lost a big case, this one to Microsoft, involving what was one time the most popular word processor on the planet, WordPerfect.

The Novell case against Microsoft had to do with WordPerfect and Quattro Pro, which Novell owned between 1994 and 1996. WordPerfect was the once-dominant word processor created by WordPerfect Corporation, and Quattro Pro was a second-tier spreadsheet created by Borland International.

By the time that WordPerfect and Quattro Pro ended up in Novell's hands in 1994, their time had passed, although truth be told, Quattro Pro never really had a time in the sun. Word was already beginning to eclipse WordPerfect, which had been slow to come out for Windows. Novell bought both pieces of software as part of WordPerfect Office, which it then later sold to Corel in 1996.

Back in 2004, Novell sued Microsoft on antitrust charges for a variety of reasons. Microsoft settled one with Novell for charges having to do with Netware, for $536 million. But the two companies couldn't agree to a settlement for issues having to do with WordPerfect and Quattro Pro, and several other charges, and Novell pursued it through the courts.

Some portions of the remaining suit were were thrown out of court in 2005. According to Seattlepi, Judge J. Frederick Motz of the the U.S. District Court of Maryland wrote back then that:

"If Novell wanted to assert claims for monopolization and attempted monopolization in the word processing and spreadsheet markets, it should have done so long ago. Its inaction entitles Microsoft to the comfort of repose."

The suits that Motz allowed to remain charged that Microsoft refused to hand over information to Novell that would have helped WordPerfect and Quattro Pro play nice with Windows. According to a Novell press release issued when Novell filed the suit:

The WordPerfect suit that Novell will file seeks unspecified damages arising from Microsoft's efforts to eliminate competition in the office productivity applications market during the time that Novell owned the WordPerfect word-processing application and the Quattro Pro spreadsheet application. The suit is based in part on facts proved by the United States Government in its successful antitrust case against Microsoft. In that suit, Microsoft was found to have unlawfully maintained a monopoly in the market for personal computer operating systems by eliminating competition in related markets.

Now Moltz has dismissed it entirely, for a number of reasons, including that what Microsoft did didn't violate the anti-trust Sherman Act.

The SCO Linux suit is clearly more important to Novell than the Microsoft one. But Novell isn't giving up against Microsoft --- it's appealing the ruling.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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