According to a report on Bloomberg News, a federal judge in Baltimore has given Novell the go-ahead to continue pursuing two antitrust claims against Microsoft. The claims involve WordPerfect, the word-processing software that Novell briefly owned in the mid-1990s. US District Judge Frederick Motz rejected four other Novell claims, however, noting that the company waited too long to pursue them.
According to Novell, Microsoft's anticompetitive behavior damaged Novell's ability to sell WordPerfect software. In 1990, Novell says, WordPerfect commanded 50 percent of the market. That market share was reduced to just 10 percent by 1996, when Microsoft Office Word seized a monopoly-level 90 percent of the market, a dominance that Office products continue to enjoy today. To support its claims, Novell cites various Microsoft email messages and other evidence that the US Department of Justice (DOJ) unearthed during its epic antitrust battle with the software giant.
"If we own the key \[software\] franchises built on top of the \[Windows\] operating system, we dramatically widen the 'moat' that protects the operating system business," Microsoft Vice President Jeff Raikes wrote in a 1997 email message. "We hope to make a lot of money off these franchises, but even more important is that they should protect Windows royalty per PC." Raikes wrote the message to billionaire investor Warren Buffett, whom Raikes hoped would invest in Microsoft. Buffett never did invest in the company, largely because he didn't "understand the way that the company works" despite Raikes' attempt to alleviate Buffett's concerns.
In June 1994, Novell purchased the WordPerfect Corporation and the Borland's Quattro Pro spreadsheet software in a combined transaction worth more than $1 billion so that Novell could sell WordPerfect and Quattro Pro as a suite to compete with Office. In March 1996, Novell sold its WordPerfect assets and Quattro Pro to Corel for just $170 million. Novell filed an antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft in November 2004, seeking unspecified damages. According to Novell's complaint, Microsoft withheld key technical information about Windows and integrated into the Windows OS technology that was designed to shut WordPerfect products out of the market. Novell also claims that Microsoft abused its monopoly power by convincing PC makers not to bundle WordPerfect products with their computers.
Prior to announcing its WordPerfect antitrust suit, Novell settled an unrelated antitrust claim with Microsoft. That claim, which involved the Novell NetWare OS, netted Novell $536 million. As part of the settlement, however, the two parties noted that they were unable to strike a similar accord with regard to WordPerfect.