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SCOTUS Ends Novell's Anti-Trust Cast Against Microsoft 174

Posted by samzenpus
from the end-of-the-line dept.
walterbyrd (182728) writes in with news about the end of the line for a Novell anti-trust claim against Microsoft. "The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday brought an end to Novell Inc's antitrust claims against Microsoft Corp that date back 20 years to the development of Windows 95 software. By declining to hear Novell's appeal, the court left intact a 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling from September 2013 in favor of Microsoft. The court of appeals unanimously affirmed the dismissal of Novell Inc's claims that Microsoft violated the Sherman Antitrust Act when it decided not to share its intellectual property while developing its Windows 95 operating system. Novell was seeking more than $3 billion."
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SCOTUS Ends Novell's Anti-Trust Cast Against Microsoft

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  • by thaylin (555395) on Monday April 28, 2014 @01:58PM (#46861163)
    There was more to it than just not sharing its IP, such as deliberately misleading the company, and changing the APIs mid stream to break interoperability.
    • by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Monday April 28, 2014 @02:07PM (#46861239) Homepage Journal
      I'm not surprised by this ruling at all. The current Supreme Court is very friendly towards businesses acting badly.
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        The current Supreme Court is very friendly towards businesses acting badly.

        The current Supreme Court is very friendly towards businesses paying them well.

        • Wow... and here I though both litigants were multibillion dollar businesses.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Microsoft is a very old and established enormous corporation. Microsoft has behind it decades and literally hundreds of billions of dollars of lobbying efforts. Political donations to both established parties combined with the politicized nature in the selection of judges and you got yourself a favorable judicial system.

            In Europe, it's mostly illegal for any business to directly donate to any political party. The parties are often funded directly from tax revenue in relation to their seats in the parliament

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by westlake (615356)

          The current Supreme Court is very friendly towards businesses paying them well.

          Bribery remains the geek's all-purpose explanation for any legal or political decision he doesn't like. It's a sign of laziness if not impotence.

          • by Rob Y. (110975)

            I think some of the issues had to do with the "appearance of corruption" - and even there the current court thinks millions of dollars in political contributions coupled with obvious enhanced access don't rise to the level of appearance of corruption. That leaves solid evidence of quid pro quo shennanigans, which will never be produceable. I.e., they've simply defined corruption away in order to rule the way their politics dictate. Except, of course, where their politics dictate otherwise (e.g. Bush v. G

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by lord_mike (567148)

        They ruled unanimously against the NFL in their antitrust suit. This SCOTUS is very business friendly, but they aren't monolithic.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        I'm not surprised by this ruling at all. The current Supreme Court is very friendly towards businesses acting badly.

        What ruling? They declined to hear the case because there isn't a constitutional challenge.

      • by westlake (615356) on Monday April 28, 2014 @03:40PM (#46862177)

        I'm not surprised by this ruling at all. The current Supreme Court is very friendly towards businesses acting badly.

        The Supreme Court is interested only in cases which offer the best opportunity to debate and decide substantial issues of federal constitutional law. The court receives around 10,000 petitions for a writ of certiorari each year. Seventy to eighty will go on to oral argument,

        • by Rob Y. (110975)

          You can bet, that if the Microsoft antitrust findings weren't essentially dropped by the Bush justice department (after having been partially voided by a flaky accusation of judicial bias - for calling Bill Gates a liar in a magazine interview after he, you know, lied in court), they would've taken that one on appeal.

    • by jedidiah (1196) on Monday April 28, 2014 @02:07PM (#46861241) Homepage

      That phrase has quite a lot of bogus spin attached to it. They take something pretty mundane and turn it completely inside out. Based on the phrase as stated, you would think that Novell was expecting Microsoft to give up all of it's trade secrets when all it was really expecting was the details of a standard public interface.

      This is just one of the many bad side effects of an overly expansive notion of "intellectual property" and of corporate privelege in general.

      • This is just one of the many bad side effects of an overly expansive notion of "intellectual property" and of corporate privelege in general.

        You jumped to a pretty big conclusion there.

        I think it's more applicable to say that this had more to do with Microsoft's ability to drag the case as long as possible and SCOTUS having little incentive to review a case that spans two decades with a dead product on one side and a dead corporation on the other.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Your.Master (1088569)

        I don't understand. If the interface was public, then by definition its details were shared. If there were details that were not shared, then those details were never part of the public interface contract, again by definition.

        Is the problem that they didn't share the public interfaces with them with appropriate timing, or that they *thought* it should be a public interface when it wasn't, or something else I'm not getting?

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          or something else I'm not getting?

          From the end of the actual trial. [theinquirer.net]
          Apparently, WordPerfect for Windows 3.11 was not compatible with Windows 95. Novell was outraged that Microsoft did not retain whatever it was that WordPerfect required exactly how it was in 3.11. Novell asserted that Microsoft broke compatibility solely to give MSWord a headstart on Windows 95 systems, that changing unpublished system APIs had no other possible benefit for an operating system.

          • by markhb (11721)
            WordPerfect 5 and 6 were a mess. WP pre-Novell had long made a habit of creating its own printer drivers, stemming partly from the fact that they supported so many wildly disparate platforms (they started on AOS/VS... now go look that up and get off my lawn!) in the pre-GUI era that they needed an internally consistent set of interfaces to work with. Once Windows started providing things like printer management, even in the 3.11 era, they had a hard time switching over and tended to GPF all over the place
        • by Sun (104778) <shachar@shemesh.biz> on Monday April 28, 2014 @03:22PM (#46861995) Homepage

          The Novel narrative is this:
          Microsoft shared the interface with Novel during the beta, encouraging it to rely on it. Then, a few months before release, and after WordPerfect was already dependent on those interfaces, Microsoft changed them and declined to share the new ones with Novel. When Windows 95 finally came out, MS did, in fact, publish those interfaces, but by then it was too late for Novel to ship WordPerfect with Windows 95's launch.

          Had MS not shared those interfaces to begin with, Novel could have worked with an internal implementation.

          Shachar

          • That all jives with my memory of the case from the 90s...

            And I keep thinking the same thing today as I did back then, why would Novell have trusted MS in the first place?

            Trust, but verify...

            • by Rob Y. (110975)

              Because, at the time, Word Perfect was a big player. This was before Microsoft began bundling in a 'free' copy of Office with Windows (i.e. OEM deals that made it nearly impossible to buy a PC that didn't 'come with' MSOffice), which is what ultimately killed WordPerfect. But making them late to the Windows 95 party didn't help either.

          • Thank you.

      • by hAckz0r (989977) on Monday April 28, 2014 @03:25PM (#46862039)
        No, what they did was to dup Novell into developing a complex product using an API that they provided, but planned on changing at the 12th hour to defeat their competition out of the gate. Their goal was to make Novell look so bad in the eyes of the consumer that nobody would ever trust the product again. This is pure maliciousness and way over the top. Its one thing to simply not give information, its entirely another to mislead and make your competition do what you tell them, and then change it so that it is guaranteed not to work.

        .
        Bottom line: If you shake hands with Bill Gates you had better count your fingers.

        • I'd agree with you about that behavior being malicious and "over the top" ... but then there's the question of whether or not it was legal. That's really all the court system is supposed to determine. It might be a fine line, but ultimately, I think the courts did the right thing here.

          If you volunteer information to a competitor and then it turns out the info you provided was bogus ... it was still information you VOLUNTEERED. There would be a clear legal case here if Novell signed a deal to PAY for this

          • by cusco (717999)

            I don't know what group of idiots was managing Novell at that time, but they screwed that company up just about every way that they could. They owned the PC networking space for years, there was nothing on the market with the capabilities or stability of Netware 3.1x for years and a Novell Netware certification was a ticket to the big paycheck. The move from Netware 3 to Netware 4 was years late, a huge amount of work, a complete paradigm shift, horrendously expensive, extremely risky, and notoriously fla

            • Your memory of AD and my memory are completely off. The first release of AD was horrible when compared with NDS.

              • by cusco (717999)

                I used AD before I used NDS, and remember an awful lot of head scratching while thinking "Why the hell did they do it this way?" Having used Windows first I also tend to do the same when trying to work on a Mac or Linux machine, a lot of it is just what one uses first.

                NetWare had a lot going for it, it must have taken a lot of work to sabotage that much of a head start. There were several other companies in that same time frame where management insisted on maintaining revenue levels or not adjusting pri

            • by Rob Y. (110975)

              Before AD, Microsoft started including the Exchange client with Windows, making it much easier to just use Exchange for email. And that required a Windows server. And once you have your first Windows server, well, it's just easier to go whole hog. All of which would be okay (i.e. legal), i guess, except the bit about bundling with Windows. But Windows' monopoly status hadn't been established yet.

              As far as Mac's and Linux systems attaching to Windows shares. It took an antitrust action in the EU to guar

              • by cusco (717999)

                Actually you could attach Macs to an NT domain, it actually was a lot easier than plugging them into the Netware network IIRC. Of course that was when Apple still did all of their own OS work, rather than slap their GUI on someone else's kernel.

          • by Solandri (704621)

            I'd agree with you about that behavior being malicious and "over the top" ... but then there's the question of whether or not it was legal. That's really all the court system is supposed to determine. It might be a fine line, but ultimately, I think the courts did the right thing here.

            If you volunteer information to a competitor and then it turns out the info you provided was bogus ... it was still information you VOLUNTEERED. There would be a clear legal case here if Novell signed a deal to PAY for this

        • by sribe (304414)

          Their goal was to make Novell look so bad in the eyes of the consumer that nobody would ever trust the product again. This is pure maliciousness and way over the top.

          Don't forget deliberately putting bugs into their conversion to/from WordPerfect format in order to push customers away from using both.

      • by nurb432 (527695)

        the details of a standard public interface.

        Still, is a company *required* to give those details away? Its mine, i should be able to restrict its access if i want to.

    • by alen (225700)

      to be fair, anything before Windows 95/NT4 was such crap you had to change API's to make the OS somewhat useful

  • by WiiVault (1039946) on Monday April 28, 2014 @02:07PM (#46861243)
    What kind of "cast" did they use? Is there a new spell-book that us magicians can buy that where we can learn a spell to make /. editors proofread articles?
  • Novell is practically nothing in comparison to what it once was in terms of company size and market presence. Even if the SCOTUS had overturned the ruling completely and found 100% in Novell's favor, what could that have possibly changed at this time?
    • by thaylin (555395) on Monday April 28, 2014 @02:20PM (#46861403)
      I am not sure it is fully about the company when it gets to that level, but society in general. They are sanctioning MS's action and it tells these companies they can do those things and just drag out the case long enough that it no longer matters, just because they have more money.
      • Dragging out a case is not new.

        I don't think this case was worth the risk of SCOTUS setting an accidental precedence. I'd like to think that SCOTUS was thinking along the same lines.

        • by Teresita (982888)
          Dragging out a case is not new.

          I don't think this case was worth the risk of SCOTUS setting an accidental precedence. I'd like to think that SCOTUS was thinking along the same lines.


          Putting the SCO in SCOtus since 2004. Just ask Pamela Jones
        • Accidental precedence or not accidental, it is clear that this SCOTUS does not really want to uphold any laws that they disagree with.

          It is a corrupt group, almost always by a 5-4 margin.

          Sherman Antitrust be damned, the fascists rule.

          In their mind, world control is all that matters.

          • by Gryle (933382)

            Care to share which 5 are corrupt and which 4 aren't, and with what evidence you reached that conclusion?

      • drag out the case long enough that it no longer matters, just because they have more money

        So then this is basically the same as the Citizens United case, and many others that came before and after it? The law continuing to favor the wealthy is not news.

    • Big red is now dead red.

  • by WillAffleckUW (858324) on Monday April 28, 2014 @02:24PM (#46861439) Homepage Journal

    Same as the Old Oligarchy

    We won't get fooled again

    Meanwhile Google hasn't paid more than $1 billion in taxes to France, and almost all tech firms have done the same thing, not paying taxes to the US, based on legal fictions and tax havens (a fancy term for a way they can make the middle class pay for their infrastructure and legal protections without paying even 1/3 the tax rate you do).

    • Corporate tax is nothing but double taxation on shareholders, employees and indirectly customers of that corporation. US has the highest corporate taxes in the developed world, and corporations have duty to their shareholders to minimize that burden in whatever legal way possible.

      • "double taxation" -- cry me a river. By this stupid accounting, I'm quintuple taxed and I'm just a poor working stiff if I'm lucky.

        US has one of the lowest effective taxes on corporations. And many of the fortune 500 companies pay 5% or less. Now if you are a small startup - taxes might be high, but you're not paying attention to who runs things.

        • And many of the fortune 500 companies pay 5% or less. Now if you are a small startup - taxes might be high
           
          So if the tax rate is lowered and loopholes closed and the tax code simplified as the Republicans have been proposing for a long time, the revenue might be higher and the small startups will pay less?

          • by cusco (717999)

            loopholes closed and the tax code simplified as the Republicans have been proposing for a long time

            Do you seriously believe that? Look at who porks up the budget with exemptions for corporate farms, weapons companies and fossil fuel industries. Each side has its pet industries, the Repugs may be "proposing" to simplify the tax code, but talk is cheap. They're not any better than the Dems on the subject, and considerably less honest about it.

      • by Uberbah (647458)

        Double taxation = taxing money when it passes from rich person to rich person. Doesn't apply to working people earning a living, sales taxes, etc.

    • In FDR's day, corporations paid around 35% of the tax burden -- now it's under 7% and dropping.

      We can't "afford things any more for some reason" we hear from the media.

      We are supposed to be "more competitive" by allowing H1B visas so we can import educated people to work. These same corporations pay less of the bill and we pay more for education -- and then compete with workers who get education from a socialist government.

      The discussion that we "can't tax rich people and corporations otherwise they would l

    • We won't get fooled again

      Recent election results point to the contrary, unless I missed how Obama and the Democrats are really sticking it to big business.

  • by NotSanguine (1917456) on Monday April 28, 2014 @03:59PM (#46862387) Journal

    A long time ago.

    Novell owned the network File/Print market and pioneered the e-Directory (NDS) environment. Microsoft was playing catch-up the whole way.

    The biggest problem with Novell was that you couldn't develop applications on the Netware platform. Microsoft offered ISVs the ability to develop software on the platform (Windows) on which it would run. When Novell purchased Unix, I thought that they would fully integrate NCP (Netware Core Protocol) into Unix. This would allow ISVs to develop software on the same platform on which their software would run. Had they done so, Microsoft would have lost the server wars and been relegated to the desktop.

    But Novell didn't do the necessary integration, and the rest is history.

    As I recall, Word Perfect was better than Microsoft Word in almost every respect. In fact, Word Perfect 5.0 is probably better in many ways than the current incarnation of Word. Sigh.

    tl;dr version: Novell killed themselves and Microsoft moved into the vacuum created when Novell imploded. The resolution of this lawsuit just puts the cherry on top of the whole mess.

    • by westlake (615356)

      As I recall, Word Perfect was better than Microsoft Word in almost every respect. In fact, Word Perfect 5.0 is probably better in many ways than the current incarnation of Word. Sigh.

      Word Perfect was the quintessential DOS-era, character based, word processor, ported to every operating system known to man, each with its own fiefdom within the company.

      Its struggles with the transition to a graphical UI did not begin or end with Windows --- and it stumbled badly as the word processor began to evolve into the integrated office suite. Almost Perfect [wordplace.com]

    • by PPH (736903)

      But Novell didn't do the necessary integration, and the rest is history.

      The back story on what went on when Novell bought Unix is quite interesting. And was probably what prompted the anti trust suit. Story was that there were a few calls made when Novell proposed this idea. If Novell expected to ever work with a Windows platform again, the Unix plan would have to be dropped. Unix would have to be sold (to a Microsoft front company) and Noorda would have to go.

      In the final analysis, the suit was probably dropped because there was no intellectual property for Microsoft to share

    • by PRMan (959735)
      But WordPerfect for Windows crashed non-stop. I was in the IT department at a college at the time and my previous roommate was the head PC lab tech. When the college told us we had to switch to WP for Windows officially, our jaws dropped, because everyone knew it was a buggy piece of crap.
      • But WordPerfect for Windows crashed non-stop. I was in the IT department at a college at the time and my previous roommate was the head PC lab tech. When the college told us we had to switch to WP for Windows officially, our jaws dropped, because everyone knew it was a buggy piece of crap.

        Yes. Yes it was. WP4Win was, in fact, a crashing bug generator rather than a word processor. That was quite annoying, IIRC.

    • by kamapuaa (555446)

      Just press ctrl+shift+F7 to print! Word was about 300 times more usable than Wordperfect, even the DOS versions nobody used. It just led in market share, & people didn't want to lose file compatibility.

      • by NotSanguine (1917456) on Monday April 28, 2014 @07:52PM (#46864235) Journal

        Just press ctrl+shift+F7 to print! Word was about 300 times more usable than Wordperfect, even the DOS versions nobody used. It just led in market share, & people didn't want to lose file compatibility.

        As someone who relied on a word processor for much of my work back in the early-mid 90's, I remember what a piece of crap MS Word was back then. Word Perfect (with the caveat that WP4win was crap), while it did have its peccadilloes, was far superior to MS Word. Feel free to disagree. However if you do, you will identify yourself as someone too young to remember or as someone who just wasn't paying attention. That is all.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          Word For Mac 5.1 was the watershed line. That was the first truly great version of Word. It still wouldn't do all the stuff wordpenis would do (sorry, that's what we called it back when I supported it, because it was such a PITA) but it was by far the most usable word processor with any significant functionality. Wordperfect avoided going WYSIWYG for a long time, with the users awfully smug about it even well after Aldus Pagemaker proved that they were idiots.

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