12-09-2016  7:06 pm      •     

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A federal judge on Friday dismissed a Utah company's $1 billion federal antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft Corp. after a jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict in a case so important to the computer giant that it put Bill Gates on the stand for two days last month.

Novell Inc. sued the software giant in 2004, claiming Microsoft duped it into developing the once-popular WordPerfect writing program for Windows 95 only to pull the plug so Microsoft could gain market share with its own product.

Novell says it was later forced to sell WordPerfect for a $1.2 billion loss.

The trial began two months ago with jurors getting the case on Wednesday. After much confusion, and some perplexing questions from the panel, they told U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz they were deadlocked by early Friday evening.

He repeatedly asked them if they could keep trying.

"This has been a very long and expensive case," Mott told the panel.

Novell attorneys pleaded with Mott to give the panel just one more day. In the end, however, jurors said they were "hopelessly deadlocked." Mott dismissed the case and sent them home.

Novell now has little to show for a decade of work. It wasn't immediately clear if Novell attorneys would seek a new trial.

Microsoft lawyers have argued that Novell's loss of market share was its own doing because the company didn't develop a compatible WordPerfect program until long after the rollout of Windows 95. WordPerfect once had nearly 50 percent of the market for word processing, but its share quickly plummeted to less than 10 percent as Microsoft's own Office programs took hold.

Gates testified last month that he had no idea his decision to drop a tool for outside developers would sidetrack Novell. Gates said he was acting to protect Windows 95 and future versions from crashing.

He said that the company's preferred Word software was superior to WordPerfect, which was a "bulky, slow, buggy product" that did not integrate well with Windows 95.

Novell could have worked around the problem but failed to react quickly, he said.

Novell has argued that Gates ordered Microsoft engineers to reject WordPerfect as a Windows 95 word processing application because he feared it was too good.

Novell's lawsuit is the last major private antitrust case to follow the settlement of a federal antitrust enforcement action against Microsoft more than eight years ago.

Novell is now a wholly owned subsidiary of The Attachmate Group, the result of a merger that was completed earlier this year.

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