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Novell Loses Appeal in WordPerfect Dispute with Microsoft

Novell had another setback in its legal dispute with Microsoft over WordPerfect and Windows 95.

On Monday, a three-judge panel at the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed an earlier court ruling that Microsoft didn't break antitrust laws about 18 years ago when it held back certain changes in a beta release of its Windows 95 operating system, according to an account by the Deseret News. Novell has now lost its appeal in a case that alleged Microsoft abused its Windows monopoly to gain market share for Microsoft Office. Novell had sought about $1 billion in damages.

Microsoft intentionally held up certain changes in Windows 95 at the beta release stage with the aim of favoring its Office suite over IBM's Lotus Notes and Novell's WordPerfect wordprocessing programs, according to a 1994 memo authored by then-CEO Bill Gates. That conduct was not considered to be antitrust activity under the Sherman Act, according to the opinion originally issued by Judge J. Frederick Motz in a Utah Central Division court. He argued then that "a monopolist generally has no duty to cooperate with its competitors" and the federal appeals court upheld that view.

WordPerfect on DOS once predominated in the wordprocessing market. It's estimated to have held half of that market in 1990, and 36 percent of that market at the end of 1994, which is when Novell owned the product. Novell subsequently sold WordPerfect to Corel in 1996, and Novell itself was acquired by Attachmate in late 2010. The Windows 95 transition away from DOS marked the downfall of WordPerfect in the market and the rise of the mouse-driven Microsoft Word. Microsoft Word is currently the market leader.

Novell has just a few options at this point. It could request an appeal of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling, pursue the case at the Supreme Court or drop the lawsuit, according the Deseret News.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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