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The jury that heard the trial over Utah-based Novell Inc.'s antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft Corp. began a third day of deliberations Friday.

The jury returned about 8 a.m. to the federal courthouse in downtown Salt Lake City, an attorney said.

Since Wednesday morning, the panel has been weighing whether Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates engaged in anticompetitive behavior when he decided in 1994 not to support a previously announced feature in Windows 95.

While the jury was outside the courtroom, attorneys on Thursday morning argued over a definition of software codes called middleware that the 12-member panel had asked for amid its discussions. A meaning was forwarded to the jury.

Middleware allows applications such as word processors to run on different operating systems, such as Microsoft's Windows, Unix or Linux. In the lawsuit, Novell claims that Gates made an October 1994 decision to withdraw support for the Windows 95 feature because he feared middleware from Novell would allow the popular WordPerfect word processing software to run on various operating systems and pose a threat to Microsoft's operating system monopoly.

In two days of testimony just before Thanksgiving, Gates said his actions of 17 years ago were made because the feature could have made Microsoft's operating systems unstable.

Novell contends the decision was aimed at stifling competition after it bought WordPerfect and the spreadsheet Quattro Pro in 1994 in what proved to be a failed bid to compete with Microsoft in a number of software markets.

Microsoft's trial attorneys blamed Novell for a poor decision in buying WordPerfect and Quattro Pro, and for muddling the updating of the programs for Windows 95 so that its suite of applications that competed with Microsoft's Office was late getting to the marketplace.

If Novell prevails and the jury awards it damages, U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz could triple the amount under antitrust laws.

Novell, of Provo, is now a wholly owned subsidiary of the Attachmate Corp., whose key operations are in the Seattle area.

For Microsoft, the trial marks the end of an era of antitrust litigation that began when the U.S. Department of Justice and a number of states sued in 1998. Except for one minor case pending in California, the Novell case is the last antitrust case from that era, attorneys said.

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