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Microsoft May Get WordPerfect Patents From Novell

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No official word, but it looks like Microsoft is getting out of a long-running lawsuit as a result of the sale of Novell

In yesterday’s sale of Novell, Microsoft is believed to have gained control of patents related to WordPerfect, a competitor to Microsoft Office which formed the basis of a long running lawsuit against Microsoft.

Novell announced yesterday that it plans to sell some intellectual property assets to a Microsoft-backed consortium called CPTN Holdings, as part of a deal in which system management company Attachmate gets the bulk of Novell. The $450 million (£280m) intellectual property deal, which forms part of the total $2.2 billion (£1.8bn) paid for Novell, most likely involves patents for WordPerfect, an office software company Novell bought in the 1990s, according to comments.

Former competitor to Office

Novell did not specify which assets Microsoft will get, but senior IT analyst Katherine Egbert of Jefferies & Co. said in an advisory that they are “most likely related to WordPerfect, which Novell acquired in the late 1990s, and through which Novell had sued Microsoft for anti-competitive behavior.”

The WordPerfect product line was sold twice, first to Novell in June 1994, who then sold it to Corel in January 1996. However, Novell kept the WordPerfect Office technology, incorporating it into its GroupWise messaging and collaboration product.

In 2004, Novell began an epic antitrust case, alleging that in earlier days, Microsoft had deliberately witheld co-operation from WordPerfect, exploiting its position as owner of Windows to give its Word software an advantage over WordPerfect, which was the market leader in the early 1990s.

This case is still on-going, even though Microsoft and Novell signed a cross-licensing agreement and began joint marketing of interoperability between Microsoft Windows and the SUSE Linux operating system.

It had been rumoured that Novell would sell its Linux server business to VMware in a separate deal, but Attachmate plans to break out Novell’s enterprise Linux business, SUSE, into a separate business unit and join both Novell and SUSE with its other holdings, which include NetIQ.

“The $6.10 per share acquisition price appears to be a reasonable takeout value,” Egbert said. “It values NOVL shares at 2.7x EV/revenue and 25x forward earnings. The sale of SUSE Linux by Novell to Attachmate is also a mild positive for Red Hat.”

Chris Preimesberger, eWEEK.com, contributed to this article.

  1. FYI: WordPerfect “Office” was not an office (as in Microsoft Office) suite at all, it was a group based messaging and calendering tool. This evolved into what is known today as Novell GroupWise.

    WordPerfect Office was in the market first, before Microsoft introduced their suite of Word, Excel etc which they named ‘Office’. This caused huge confusion in the market and WordPerfect were in the process of renaming their Office (the email product) – the rebranding was happening – it was actually going to be called ‘Synergy’ then came the announcement that Novell was purchasing WordPerfect.

    A few weeks later Novell announced that they were rebranding WordPerfect Synergy as Novell GroupWise. 4.1 was the first Novell version – 4.0a was the previous WordPerfect Office version.

    Happy to talk further if you wish.