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Bill Gates summoned in antitrust case that WILL NOT DIE

Unkillable legal zombie reaches out of grave once again

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Microsoft chairman Bill Gates will be quizzed in court today in the antitrust suit that will not die - the one first brought by Novell against the firm in 2004.

Novell accuses MS of unfairly restricting competition for Novell's WordPerfect and Quattro Pro programs, a word processor and a spreadsheet app that it owned for a short time in the mid-1990s.

According to Novell, Redmond encouraged it to make a version of its software to suit Windows 95, but then pulled support months before rollout, making room for its own office suite. Microsoft claims that the apps threatened to crash Windows 95 and couldn't be sorted out in time for launch. Novell ended up selling WordPerfect at a $1.2bn loss.

The case had looked all but settled in 2010 when MS argued that a deal between Novell and another company called Caldera had lost Novell any right to sue.

The agreement between the two firms was designed to give Caldera the litigation rights to Novell's OS, DR-DOS, so that company could take MS to court and Novell could share in the winnings, while protecting itself from any further unfair practices.

As soon as the ink was dry, Caldera went to court against Microsoft alleging harm to DR-DOS and related PC operating system software and in 2000, won a settlement of $280m, $35.5m of which it handed over to Novell.

In 2010, the district court ruled that the agreement between Caldera and Novell could be read to include office applications linked to the operating system, so Novell had lost its right to sue.

However, in May, a US appeals court reversed the judgement, sending the case back to the district court to be tried. Now Microsoft is calling Gates in to defend the company.

Gates hasn't exactly covered himself in glory in previous antitrust testimony, giving an absolutely disastrous performance in a video-taped deposition for the long-running Department of Justice antitrust case in 1998.

Redmond must be hoping that the older Gates will be wiser this time round. ®

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