By Rachel Chalmers At the last possible opportunity, Microsoft Corp has filed a brief in its lawsuit with Sun Microsystems Inc over the Java programming language. US District Court Judge Ronald Whyte has been asked to defend his finding that Microsoft’s behavior violated Sun’s copyright in Java. Microsoft itself says it’s guilty of no more […]
By Rachel Chalmers
At the last possible opportunity, Microsoft Corp has filed a brief in its lawsuit with Sun Microsystems Inc over the Java programming language. US District Court Judge Ronald Whyte has been asked to defend his finding that Microsoft’s behavior violated Sun’s copyright in Java. Microsoft itself says it’s guilty of no more than breach of contract – an offense for which the damages awarded are likely to be much lower. Our position comes down to two issues, explained Microsoft spokesperson Jim Cullinan.
First up, the Redmond software company signed a five-year Technology Licensing and Distribution Agreement (TLDA) with Sun. The contract Microsoft signed was unique and not a standard distribution contract for Sun’s technology, Cullinan told ComputerWire. There are specific provisions in the contract that give Microsoft significant freedom to innovate with the technology and improve it for the Windows platform. Also in the contract are specific provisions should there be a dispute between the parties. We believe everything Microsoft has done to improve Java and to maximize the performance of our Java virtual machine has helped Java and developers, he said.
Second, and crucially, Cullinan said that in case of dispute, the contract provides only for monetary damages. Sun is saying that Microsoft exceeded the scope of the contract, but the real issue is whether Microsoft breached the contract, not [whether it] exceeded the scope, he said. We don’t believe we exceeded the scope, but the issue for the court is the interpretation of the signed contract… The basic issue is that Sun has not met its burden to show that Microsoft infringed Sun’s copyright. Cullinan pointed out that in August, an appeals court overturned Judge Whyte’s November 1998 injunction against Microsoft. That’s why Whyte must now explain his finding in more detail.
What it comes down to, Cullinan argues, is that Sun has failed to meet the legal standard to show that it should receive injunctive relief from the court based on copyright infringement. The court didn’t do the proper analysis needed to issue such an injunction, he says, and the appeals court agreed. However, as Sun has always pointed out, the appeals court simultaneously agreed with Whyte that Sun is likely to prevail on the merits of its case. What’s being argued now is not whether or not Microsoft has misbehaved – clearly, it has – but how much it should be made to pay.