Sun Microsystems Inc has found itself in the unusual position of losing a Java law suit, brought by photography giant Eastman Kodak.
A US judge has ruled Sun infringed on several patents owned by Kodak, used in the Java programming language. Kodak is now seeking $1bn in damages from Sun.
The case centered on patents bought by Kodak bought from Wang Laboratories in 1997, which refer to integration of data between object managers, between data managers and integration of different programs manipulating different types of data.
News of Kodak’s victory will come as a surprise to Sun, famed for launching pro-Java lawsuits, notably against Microsoft Corp. Among its exploits in more recent years, Sun launched a private $1bn action against Microsoft for violations of licensing, a case that was dropped this April in a broad-ranging settlement agreement.
Sun generally plays the role of Java policeman. The company retains a controlling stake in Java Community Process (JCP) voting, to avoid unwanted changes to the language. Last year, meanwhile, Sun was reportedly considering legal action against JBoss Inc over claims its open source application server was Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) compatible, without having undertaken official certification testing.
Kodak’s victory is likely to create disquiet in an industry currently dogged by Intellectual Property (IP) and royalties issues. It is unclear whether Kodak will seek to charge royalties on the three patents, however other vendors, notably Microsoft Corp, have been taking steps towards charging vendors using its patents.
There is concern vendors are placing chargeable patents at the core of the internet’s infrastructure, in-order to charge and generate on-going business.
Last week, Microsoft saw its File Allocation Table (FAT) patent thrown out by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) following a review, although the company plans to appeal. Microsoft planned to charge $0.25 per unit, up to $250,000 for its FAT patent. Microsoft claims FAT licensing deals with Lexar Media, Rockwell International, Creative Technology and Seiko-Epson.
In a statement Kodak said: We are pleased that the court has validated Kodak’s intellectual property rights protecting these valuable innovations. Sun was unavailable for comment.