Novell antitrust case against Microsoft begins

Novell today begins antitrust legal proceedings against Microsoft that may finally settle an ongoing dispute over its Windows 95 operating system, with Microsoft founder Bill Gates expected to be called as a witness.

The dispute began in 2004 when Novell sued the software giant, claiming it had abused its monopoly in the operating system market by deliberately delaying the release of Windows 95, in order to damage sales of Novell's WordPerfect productivity software, then a rival of Microsoft's Office suite. The firm was finally given the go-ahead for a full antitrust hearing in May this year.

Microsoft has always insisted that the delay was to allow it to decide which features to include in the OS.

The hearing will be held in a Utah court and may last up to eight weeks. Novell is seeking up to $2.5bn in compensation.

An added twist in the case came with the acquisition of Novell by software company Attachmate in April this year for $2.2bn (£1.4bn), which divided Novell into two companies operating under the Novell and SuSE brands.

Since then Microsoft has entered into a deal with Apple and Oracle to buy up old Novell patents - sparking a row with Google, which declined to be part of the deal and claims the move is intended to hamper development of its Android mobile operating system.