Novell sues Microsoft over ad campaign

Novell Inc. Monday went on the offensive when it sued Microsoft Corp. for “making and distributing false and misleading” statements about Novell’s flagship product, NetWare 6.

Novell claimed that Microsoft launched a campaign of false advertising targeted at Novell customers.

According to Novell’s claims, Microsoft sent out a cereal box to Novell customers labeled “Microsoft Server Crunch” that included statements such as “What’s the expiration date on that NetWare platform?” and “You’re left with a server platform without the full support of its manufacturer.”

Novell is asking the U.S. District Court to stop Microsoft’s advertising about Novell and NetWare. It is also asking for advertising that corrects the “misleading” statements, as well as unspecified money damages.

“Microsoft has tried to create a fictitious end of life for NetWare to create fear and uncertainty within Novell’s customer base and to discourage future customers from doing business with Novell,” Novell executive vice-president and chief operating officer Stewart Nelson says.

The recent advertising is not Microsoft’s first this year, says Novell. Shortly after the announcement that Novell would merge with consulting company Cambridge Technology Partners Inc., Microsoft posted a story on MSN Money Central that said Novell was moving out of the software business and into consulting.

According to internal Novell documents Network World received, the company will derive 30 per cent of its business from IT solutions consulting, 60 per cent from software licenses and support, and the remaining 10 per cent from education and management consulting.

It is also not the first lawsuit to come, albeit indirectly, from Novell against Microsoft. In 1996, Novell sold DR-DOS to Caldera Systems Inc., a recent start-up headed by former Novell CEO and Chairman Ray Noorda. Caldera sued Microsoft asserting that the company was trying to dominate the PC operating system space. The suit was settled for an undisclosed amount last year, and Novell received a portion of the settlement.