Sullivan & Cromwell wins epic antitrust battle for Microsoft

Seven years of litigation came to an end last week when a US District Court judge dismissed Novell’s antitrust case against longstanding Sullivan & Cromwell client Microsoft.

In a legal battle that has its roots in the 1990s, US District Judge Frederick Motz ruled that Novell could not continue to pursue the case it filed in 2004 because the software provider lacked sufficient evidence.

Utah-based Novell claimed that Microsoft witheld details that would have made its software work on Windows 95, resulting in the delayed release of its once-dominant word processor WordPerfect. The software developer was reportedly seeking up to $1bn in damages, arguing that the delay put it at a competitive disadvantage and caused it to lose crucial marketshare to Microsoft Word.

According to Bloomberg, WordPerfect’s value dropped from $1.2bn in 1994 to $170m in 1996, when it was sold to Ottawa-based Corel.

The Sullivan team was led by long-time Microsoft advisers David Tulchin and Steven Holley. The New York-based litigation partners have a long history with Microsoft, with Tulchin serving as Microsoft’s lead national counsel in defence of private antitrust actions for the past decade and Holley representing Microsoft since 1992.

Sullivan & Cromwell also acted as lead counsel to Microsoft when the European Commission imposed a record €497m (£338m) fine on the technology giant in 2004 for abuse of dominant position in relation to linking digital entertainment software Media Player with Windows. Although Microsoft went to appeal, the decision was upheld in September 2007 by Europe’s Court of First Instance (read more about Microsoft’s legal tussles in this year’s Transatlantic Elite).

Jeffrey Johnson, a partner at Washington-DC firm Dickstein Shapiro, was lead counsel for Novell. Novell’s vice president for legal matters Jim Lundberg has reportedly said the company would appeal last week’s decision.