Supreme Court Won't Halt Novell's Antitrust Case Against Microsoft

The US Supreme Court this week refused to hear Microsoft's request that it halt an antitrust case brought against the software giant by Novell. The Novell suit was filed in 2004, alleging that Microsoft "deliberately targeted and destroyed" the WordPerfect and Quattro Pro office productivity applications that Novell owned, briefly, in the mid-1990's.

"Microsoft specifically targeted WordPerfect and Novell's other office productivity applications because they threatened Microsoft's Windows monopoly," Novell court documents read. Novell's suit is one of many that arose in the wake of Microsoft's 2001 antitrust settlement with the US government. For its part, Microsoft says that Novell shouldn't be able to sue it for antitrust-related behavior because Microsoft's antitrust issues were all OS-related: Novell's office productivity software didn't compete directly with Windows.

A federal district court and a US District Court of Appeals both discounted this assessment, allowing the Novell suit to continue. So Microsoft appealed directly to the Supreme Court. This week's decision means that the Novell case can head to court.

The Novell suit is bizarre for a number of reasons, chief among them that Novell only owned the WordPerfect and Quattro Pro products for a few years. After purchasing WordPerfect for over $1.2 billion in 1994, Novell sold the products to Corel in 1996 for just $170 million, a fraction of the price it had earlier paid. And Novell and Microsoft are actually partnering on a number of initiatives unrelated to the suit. In 2005, Microsoft licensed Novell's Linux systems and various patents. Under terms of the deal, Novell and Microsoft co-market both Windows and Linux to businesses.

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