Jury deadlocked in $1B Microsoft suit

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Jurors are deadlocked in a Utah company’s $1 billion federal antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft Corp., a federal judge said Friday.

They were ordered to continue deliberations until 5 p.m. MST. The judge said if the jury still is undecided then, he may dismiss the case, leaving Novell Inc. attorneys with little to show for a decade of work.

Novell Inc. sued Microsoft in 2004, claiming the Redmond, Wash., company violated U.S. antitrust laws through its arrangements with other software makers when it launched Windows 95. Novell said it was later forced to sell WordPerfect for a $1.2 billion loss.

It was unknown why jurors were deadlocked, but they have expressed confusion to the judge throughout deliberations, even bringing one question to the court that could not be answered. The judge told them to simply disregard the question.

Earlier Friday, the judge denied a request from one juror to be removed from the case.

Novell claims 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.

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.

Microsoft co-founder Bill 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.

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. The trial began in October in federal court in Salt Lake City.

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

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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