Supreme Court Refuses Microsoft Appeal

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The Supreme Court of the United States has refused to hear Microsoft’s appeal of an antitrust suit being brought against Microsoft by Novell, which alleges the Redmond software giant used its monopoly in the computer operating systems market to "target and destroy" its WordPerfect and Quattro Pro productivity applications.

The private lawsuit dates back to 2004, but the issues in the suit date all the way back to the mid-1990s when Novell acquired the word processor WordPerfect and spreadsheet applications Quattro Pro and decided to compete with Microsoft Office in the productivity applications market. The effort was essentially a disaster, and Novell sold the applications to Corel in 1996. When Novell bought WordPerfect and Quattro Pro, it claimed the applications had a combined value of over $1 billion. The company sold the applications to Corel for $170 million.

Novell alleges Microsoft held back "critical technical information" about Windows internals from Novell, while at the same time making that information available to its own Microsoft Office development teams. As a result, Novel claims Office had an unfair advantage over competitors like Novell, and Microsoft abused its monopoly position in the operating systems market to constrain trade and competition in the applications market. Novell is basing part of its case on facts established by the federal government’s successful antitrust case against Microsoft.

Not surprisingly, Microsoft maintains WordPerfect and Quattro Pro failed to catch on simply because customers didn’t like them very much.

In October of 2007, the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court ruling that Novell’s antitrust suit against Microsoft could go forward. Microsoft appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, hoping they would quash the case. For several years, Microsoft has expressed official bewilderment that Novell would be suing them over a business it owned only briefly and sold over a decade ago.

In 2004, Microsoft paid Novell $536 million to settle litigation related to Novell’s NetWare operating system; at the same time, Novell dropped out of the antitrust case being brought against Microsoft by the European Commission.