The Supreme Court today handed Microsoft a defeat by refusing to rule on the software giant's request to halt an antitrust suit against...

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WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court today handed Microsoft a defeat by refusing to rule on the software giant’s request to halt an antitrust suit against it.

The suit was brought in 2004 by Waltham, Mass.-based Novell, which said in court papers that Microsoft “deliberately targeted and destroyed” its WordPerfect and QuattroPro programs to protect its Windows operating system monopoly.

Novell alleged that Microsoft targeted the programs because they could run on alternative operating systems and therefore could enable alternatives to Windows to gain market share.

Microsoft argued in court filings that Novell did not compete in the operating systems market and therefore cannot claim to have been harmed by alleged anticompetitive conduct by Microsoft in that market.

A federal district court and the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Richmond, Va., sided with Novell and allowed the suit to proceed. Microsoft’s lawyers said that decision expands the application of antitrust laws “far beyond their intended scope.”

Plaintiffs in antitrust suits can seek damages that are triple the actual harm.

The Supreme Court’s decision allows Novell’s lawsuit to continue. Chief Justice John Roberts, who owns Microsoft stock, recused himself from the decision.

“We realize the Supreme Court reviews a small percentage of cases each year, but we filed our petition because it offered an opportunity to address the question of who may assert antitrust claims,” Microsoft spokesman David Bowermaster said today in an e-mail, commenting on the Supreme Court’s decision. “We look forward to addressing this and other substantive matters in the case before the trial court. We believe the facts will show that Novell’s claims, which are 12 to 14 years old, are without merit.”

Microsoft fought a three-year legal battle with the federal government over whether the company was abusing its operating system monopoly to take market share in the Internet browsing market. As part of a settlement with the federal government and 17 states, Microsoft agreed to court oversight of its business practices. A federal judge in January extended that oversight to November 2012.