Novell alleges Microsoft used its monopoly power to limit sales of Novell's office productivity applications.
BALTIMORE — A federal judge threw out four of Novell’s six antitrust claims against Microsoft but ruled that the case could proceed.
Novell alleges Microsoft used its monopoly power to limit sales of Novell’s office productivity applications, including WordPerfect, a word-processing program, and Quattro Pro, a spreadsheet program.
U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz cited an e-mail from a Microsoft executive to billionaire investor Warren Buffett in allowing two of the claims to proceed.
In the 1997 e-mail, Jeff Raikes, head of Microsoft’s Office software unit, sought to persuade Buffett to invest in Redmond-based Microsoft, saying Microsoft’s word-processing and spreadsheet programs — Word and Excel — could secure its operating system business.
Raikes noted that if Microsoft owned “key ‘franchises’ built on top” of its Windows operating system it could “dramatically widen the ‘moat’ that protects the operating system business.”
“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,” the e-mail said.
Waltham, Mass.-based Novell claims Microsoft’s chairman, Bill Gates, said in company documents that his company’s strategy of integrating Web browsing functions into the Windows operating system and its refusal to share certain code aimed to exclude Novell’s applications from the market.
The remaining four claims were dismissed because Novell waited too long to file them, Motz said in his ruling Friday. The case was filed in November in Utah and transferred last month to the federal court in Maryland.
The four dismissed counts “assert claims for monopolization and attempted monopolization in the word processing and spreadsheet applications market,” according to the ruling.
Under federal law, private parties can wait until a government action has come to an end, but cannot “sit on their rights and assert claims so much broader than those asserted by the government.”
“If Novell wanted to assert claims for monopolization and attempted monopolization in the word processing and spread sheet markets, it should have done so long ago,” Motz said in his ruling.
The two remaining counts allege:
• Microsoft unlawfully “obtained and maintained its monopoly power in the Intel-compatible operating systems market by engaging in anticompetitive conduct.”
• Microsoft engaged in exclusionary agreements with manufacturers that amounted to unreasonable restraint of trade.
Novell, which sold WordPerfect and Quattro Pro to Corel in 1996, has previously reached a $536 million settlement with Microsoft on other antitrust claims involving its NetWare operating system.