The US Supreme Court on Monday put an end to a 10-year-old antitrust case between Novell and Microsoft, upholding a previous dismissal of the case. Novell had been seeking billions in damages for Microsoft's alleged abuses during the creation of Windows 95, about 20 years ago.
Novell first filed suit against Microsoft in 2004. It accused Microsoft of "deliberately targeting and destroying" WordPerfect and Quattro Pro productivity software—both of which Novell later acquired—by preventing their makers from learning about new software interfaces in what was then the next version of Windows, called Windows 95, back in 1994. This activity was an antitrust abuse, Novell said, because Microsoft was abusing its monopoly OS position to harm competitors.
The strangest part of this story is that by 2004 Novell didn't even own WordPerfect or Quattro Pro any more: After driving both products into the ground in the mid-1990s, Novell sold off both properties to Corel in 1996 at a loss of over $1.2 billion. It also should be noted that, in WordPerfect's case at least, the product failed specifically because the firm at the time was heavily backing IBM OS/2 over Windows, not because Microsoft withheld information. In fact, WordPerfect put its weight behind OS/2 specifically to harm Microsoft and Windows.
Novell was seeking $1.3 billion in damages. The antitrust suit finally went to court in 2011, but the jury eventually deadlocked. During the trial, Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates testified that WordPerfect's problems were self-inflicted and not the result of alleged anti-competitive practices by Microsoft. Microsoft Word beat WordPerfect, he correctly noted, because it was the better product.
And by that time, Novell had been sold off to Attachmate, so not only were the products in question long gone, but so, too, was the company that launched the lawsuit. In July 2012, US District Judge J. Frederick Motz dismissed the lawsuit, noting that Novell did not present sufficient evidence to obtain a jury decision. Novell announced an appeal.
Today, the Supreme Court rejected that appeal. Case closed. And it only took 20 years.