Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates will testify in a long-running antitrust lawsuit filed by business software-maker Novell.
Former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates will testify Nov. 21 in a
federal antitrust lawsuit leveled against the software giant by open-source
business software-maker Novell.
Novell claims that Microsoft relied on illegal practices to
crush WordPerfect, a rival to Microsoft Word. The long-running suit, originally
filed in November 2004, centers on Novell's claims that Microsoft withheld critical
Windows 96 technical information, which in turn made it difficult to deliver a
version of WordPerfect compatible with that operating system.
For its part, Microsoft has argued that Novell wasn't an
operating system competitor during the
mid-1990s, the period under discussion, and that WordPerfect's market share collapse was solely due to Novell's
corporate mismanagement. Novell eventually sold the WordPerfect line to Corel
in 1996, for a fraction of the price it paid to acquire the property in 1994;
however, it retained the rights to some of the underlying technology, which it
baked into products such as the GroupWise messaging and collaboration platform.
Even as Microsoft and Novell have continued their courtroom
battle, the two companies have collaborated in other areas. Late last year,
Novell said it would sell some of its intellectual property assets to CPTN
Holdings, a consortium of technology companies organized by Microsoft. The
actual intellectual property in question was unspecified, although the
Microsoft-led consortium was willing to pay some $450 million for it; Katherine
Egbert of research firm Jefferies & Co. postulated at the time that the
assets could relate somehow to WordPerfect.
That deal hit some snags, however, when the U.S. Department
of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission began to pick over the
associated patents. In turn, that interfered with Attachmate's attempts to
acquire Novell for some $2.2 billion. After a few weeks, federal regulators
allowed the deal to go through, and Attachmate Group reported it had completed
the acquisition in late April.
Gates has testified in Microsoft's defense before, most
notably during the company's 1998 antitrust investigation by the federal
government. Microsoft eventually settled, agreeing to third-party access to its
product source code for a limited period, in addition to other measures.
According to Bloomberg, Gates could face extensive cross-examination by
Novell's representation, with a laser focus on his decision-making process at
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Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.