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Tenth Circuit Rules for Microsoft in Antitrust Lawsuit

By Betty Wang, JD on September 24, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Tenth Circuit has ruled that Novell Inc. has no viable claims left after an eight-week long trial against Microsoft that occurred in Utah in 2011, reports The Associated Press. While the case spans nearly 20 years of contentious legal battles, the court focused on what it could, and was left with one final decision: with respect to Novell, Microsoft did nothing unlawful.

According to the AP,& the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals held, "Novell complains that Microsoft refused to share its intellectual property with rivals after first promising to do so. But the antitrust laws rarely impose on firms -- even dominant firms -- a duty to deal with their rivals."

In a case that began in the mid 90s, Novell finally was able to bring forth a suit against Microsoft in 2004, claiming a variety of antitrust violations. Due to host of reasons, including the statute of limitations barring certain claims, and the courts dismissing all the claims but one, Novell finally went forward with one remaining issue. In 2011, Novell argued that Microsoft had intentionally placed Novell's word processing product, WordPerfect, at an unfair competitive disadvantage in the 90s.

After eight weeks of an ongoing trial that even included Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates on the stand for two days (in which he claimed that he had no idea a last-minute decision to drop a tool for outside developers would sidetrack Novell, reports the AP), the trial finally ended with the district court making only one clear determination: that Microsoft's conduct did not violate Section 2 of the Sherman Act, which punishes any person who 'monopolizes, attempts to monopolize, or combines or conspires with any other person or persons, to monopolize any part of the trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations.'

At the end of the day, in a lengthy 35-page long opinion, the Tenth agreed with the district court's primary holding that Microsoft did nothing that qualified as anti-competitive behavior within the meaning of Section 2. The circuit court also saw eye to eye with the district court's other rationales for rejecting Novell's claim, such as the fact that Novell's losses and delays were really due to its own mismanagement and not based on any actions by Microsoft.

Novell claims that this decision has cost it time and market share, and that it was forced to sell WordPerfect for a $1.2 billion loss, reports the AP.

The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment. Novell now has a few options remaining if they want to continue with this already incredibly drawn out case. This includes taking actions such as asking for a full Tenth Circuit review, appealing the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, or finally abandoning the cause.

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