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Some charges tossed in Novell-Microsoft case

Judge throws out four Novell claims in antitrust struggle but allows two to go forward. Decision partly based on infamous Windows e-mail.

A federal judge in Baltimore has tossed out several of Novell's remaining antitrust claims against Microsoft but allowed some to go forward.

Judge J. Frederick Motz ruled on Friday that Novell can go ahead with two claims that Microsoft engaged in unfair competition with regard to Novell's WordPerfect and Quattro Pro applications. Motz ruled that the four other claims were not filled within the proper time frame.

In his decision allowing one of the two Microsoft claims to proceed, Motz cited a now infamous 1997 e-mail from Office unit head Jeff Raikes to investor Warren Buffet, in which Raikes said that applications like Word and Excel can serve as a "moat" that protects against Windows competition.

"If we own the key 'franchises' built on top of the operating system, we dramatically widen the 'moat' that protects the operating system business," Raikes said in the e-mail, cited in Motz's ruling. "We hope to make a lot of money off these franchises, but even more important is that they should protect our Windows royalty per PC....And success in those businesses will help increase the opportunity for future pricing discretion."

Microsoft spokeswoman Stacy Drake said that the software maker is "pleased that the judge dismissed four of Novell's six claims."

A Novell representative said the company is pleased the judge allowed its case to continue and that Novell looks forward to going to trial on the matter.

Novell sued Microsoft over WordPerfect in November 2004, days after reaching a $536 million settlement on other antitrust claims related to Novell's NetWare operating system. Novell also dropped out of the European Union's antitrust case against Microsoft following the settlement.