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Victory for Microsoft as Supremes decline to hear Novell's WordPerfect whine

The Windows 95 case that wouldn't die is finally snuffed out

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The decade-long legal fight over the reasons WordPerfect failed has ended in victory for Microsoft after the US Supreme Court declined to hear Novell's appeal and shut the door on a potential billion-dollar settlement for the company.

"We're happy this case is now over for good and think it shows we'll persistently defend ourselves from lawsuits we think are meritless," a Microsoft spokesperson told El Reg. Novell told us it was declining to comment.

Novell first filed its case back in 2004, claiming that Microsoft's rollout of Windows 95 was designed to harm the Utah firm's WordPerfect package, which Novell bought for $1.4bn – then the largest software buyout the industry had ever seen.

Lawyers for Novell claimed that Redmond encouraged Novell to develop WordPerfect for Windows 95 but then withheld key software support that would have enabled the word processing package to work, with the intention of making Microsoft Word more attractive.

Whatever the cause and motivation, Microsoft Word eclipsed WordPerfect, and Novell offloaded it to Corel for just $170m in 1996. Since then the Utah based firm has been gunning for Microsoft, and successfully settled one case with Redmond over Netware for half a billion dollars before starting the legal case over WordPerfect ten years ago.

After four years of legal sparring the US Supreme Court granted Novell the right to go ahead and sue in 2008, and since then there has been a long and protracted court battle on the topic of the type that allows corporate lawyers to buy such lovely summer homes.

Bill Gates himself took the stand in 2011, and said that certain software that would have helped WordPerfect integrate had been taken out of Windows 95, but only because Microsoft was worried it would crash the operating system.

Last September the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Microsoft was in the clear but Novell wasn't about to give up. It appealed to the highest court in the land, but Monday's decision by the Supreme Court has ended Novell's last hope. Chief Justice John Roberts recused himself from the decision because he was a lawyer in the Justice Department’s antitrust case against Microsoft. ®

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