The lawsuit is a byproduct of the U.S. government’s landmark case against Microsoft that was settled more than six years ago after the world’s biggest software maker was declared an illegal monopolist. A handful of other private suits against Microsoft still await resolution, and no claim is bigger than Novell’s.
Novell briefly owned WordPerfect in the mid-1990s and says Microsoft’s anti-competitive tactics undermined the product. WordPerfect’s share of the word-processing market fell to less than 10 percent in 1996 from almost 50 percent in 1990.
While Novell no longer owns WordPerfect, it is pursuing the suit in what experts say is a long-shot bid for a big windfall. The company, whose revenue has fallen 18 percent in the past five years, is struggling to develop its business as a seller of Linux operating system software.
“Novell felt they had a lottery ticket they didn’t want to rip up until they knew how much it was worth,” said Bill Whyman, head of technology research for International Strategy and Investment, a Washington-based investment advice firm.
Microsoft asked the U.S. Supreme Court last week to quash the suit.
Almost $5 Billion
In the aftermath of the federal antitrust suit, Microsoft has paid almost $5 billion to settle claims it damaged competitors such as Sun Microsystems Inc., International Business Machines Corp. and RealNetworks Inc. Microsoft, based in Redmond, Washington, also agreed to issue more than $2.7 billion in vouchers for software to end claims it overcharged consumers for the Windows operating system that runs 95 percent of the world’s personal computers.
Microsoft says Novell’s claims, filed in 2004, lack merit because the company was neither a competitor nor customer in the operating-software market when it owned WordPerfect.
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