Novell sues Microsoft for sinking WordPerfect

Company says software giant excluded app from market, but Microsoft says Novell's mismanagement caused WordPerfect to lose favor with consumers.

Novell filed suit against Microsoft on Friday, claiming the company used anti-competitive tactics in the desktop software market during the 1990s.

As expected, the suit argues that Microsoft restrained trade from 1994 to 1996, when Novell sold its WordPerfect word processing application and Quattro Pro spreadsheet. The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City, seeks unspecified damages.

Novell charges that Microsoft withheld "critical technical information" about Windows from Novell, which Novell says hampered its ability to create competitive versions of its productivity applications.

Novell also contends that Microsoft deliberately excluded WordPerfect from the marketplace. Novell said Microsoft used its monopoly power to prevent hardware manufacturers from offering WordPerfect to customers.

"While this lawsuit is unrelated to Novell's current business, the claims are important and hold considerable value for Novell," Joseph LaSala Jr., Novell's senior vice president and general counsel, said in a statement.

Earlier this week, Microsoft paid Novell $536 million to settle potential litigation relating to Novell's NetWare operating system. Novell also has dropped out of an ongoing antitrust case against Microsoft by the European Commission.

The two sides, however, could not reach a settlement on the question of WordPerfect and desktop productivity suites, according to Novell.

Back in 1996, Novell sold off WordPerfect and its Quattro Pro spreadsheet programs to Corel for about $170 million after losing substantial market share to Microsoft's Office. Novell claims the combined value of the WordPerfect and Quattro Pro product lines when they were acquired was more than $1 billion.

In a statement issued Friday, Microsoft dismissed Novell's suit as fundamentally flawed. The Redmond, Wash.-based company said Novell's mismanagement caused WordPerfect to fall out of favor with consumers.

"It's also unfortunate, and surprising, that Novell has just now chosen to litigate over a business it owned for a very short time and that it sold more than eight years ago," the Microsoft statement says.

The suit is based in part on facts from the Department of Justice's successful antitrust case against Microsoft, which focused on the inclusion of Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser with Windows on desktop PCs.

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