Novell’s suit vs. Microsoft goes to trial in Utah

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) ? An antitrust lawsuit involving high-tech giants Novell Inc. and Microsoft Corp. is headed to federal court next week in a jury trial that could include testimony from Bill Gates.

Novell sued Microsoft in 2004, claiming the company violated U.S. antitrust laws primarily through its arrangements with other computer makers. A judge has since dismissed five of Novell’s six original claims.

The trial starting Monday addresses the outstanding issue of whether Microsoft delayed releasing Windows 95 to keep Novell’s Word Perfect word processing program and Quattro Pro spreadsheet application from gaining a place in the market. The Provo, Utah-based Novell is seeking $500 million to $1.2 billion in compensation.

Microsoft attorneys argue that Novell is responsible for its own failings and that Microsoft’s delays were based on technical decisions about what features to include or exclude from its operating system.

“The law basically doesn’t require people to design their products to the whim or demand of other companies. You get to design your own products,” Microsoft attorney Steve Aeschbacher told the Deseret News. “There isn’t any legal obligation for us to do what they wanted us to do.”

An attorney for Novell, Max Wheeler, said the company was “confident that after hearing the evidence in this case, the jury will conclude that Microsoft’s conduct was anti-competitive, that Microsoft targeted Novell and WordPerfect with this anti-competitive conduct, and that Microsoft’s conduct caused substantial damages to the WordPerfect business.”

Aeschbacher said that Bill Gates could testify during the trial, which was scheduled to last eight weeks.

“We put him in our will-call list, so we expect him to be here,” Aeschbacher said.

The Houston-based software holding company Attachmate Group bought Novell in April for $2.2 billion.

Up to now, the lawsuit has been argued in Maryland, where the federal court consolidated several other antitrust cases involving Microsoft. U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz of Baltimore will preside over the trial in Utah.

Novell, which sold WordPerfect and Quattro Pro to Corel in 1996, previously reached a $536 million settlement with Microsoft on other antitrust claims involving its NetWare operating system.


Information from: Deseret News,