In a legal entanglement that's completely aside from the US Department of Justice (DOJ) investigations, US District Judge Dee Benson has issued several rulings that will let Caldera’s antitrust suit against Microsoft go to trial on January 17, 2000. Caldera is suing Microsoft for using its monopoly in excess and sinking Caldera's DR-DOS product. According to Caldera, this action happened in the early days of the 1990s, and the company filed suit in 1996.
Microsoft has issued nine motions for partial summary judgment. Judge Benson has already ruled against eight of Microsoft’s motions for partial summary judgment, leaving only one motion to go. If the judge allowed summary judgment of parts of the case (i.e., threw out parts of the case), Caldera would have to present its case in bits and pieces.
In issuing his rulings, Judge Benson is not ruling that Microsoft used a monopoly to push DR-DOS out of existence. Rather, he's saying that sufficient evidence exists to support Caldera’s claims that its case can move into court instead of being thrown out summarily without trial.
In effect, Judge Benson’s most recent ruling states that sufficient evidence exists to allow the following Caldera claims to proceed to trial:
• Microsoft intentionally created incompatibilities between its products and DR-DOS to weaken DR-DOS’ salability.
• Microsoft's products generated fake error messages while DR-DOS was running to make DR-DOS look worse than it actually was.
• Microsoft merged MS-DOS and Windows illegally to destroy DR-DOS’ competitive capability.
• Microsoft singled out DR-DOS developers and didn't let them access the Windows 3.1 beta.
Simple awards are typically limited to triple the amount of the damages. In this case, Microsoft might have to pay up to $1.6 billion. However, Caldera is bringing this case to trial in Utah, where if the court allows punitive damages, awards are unlimited. For this reason, Microsoft has been trying to move the venue. If Judge Benson allows punitive damages in the final ruling, Microsoft might be in for a beating. The final and ninth ruling on a Microsoft motion, the last ruling remaining, concerns whether the court will allow these punitive damages. In its final days, Novell acquired DR-DOS and then it was acquired by Caldera. Novell’s former CEO and current Chairman of the Canopy Group Investment Company, Ray Noorda, acquired DR-DOS from Novell mainly as a vehicle for pursuing this lawsuit against Microsoft. Unfortunately, this case, which comes on the heels of the Microsoft and DOJ trial, is exactly the kind of publicity that Microsoft doesn’t need.