Microsoft ordered to pay rival Bristol for legal fees

Microsoft must pay software maker Bristol Technology $US3.7 million for legal fees in addition to the $1 million it was ordered to pay the company in September for unfair trade practices, a federal judge ruled last week.

Bristol Technology had sought $6 million in legal fees in the case, which was filed in August 1998 and alleged that Microsoft injured Bristol and the rest of the software industry by predatory manipulation of the access to Windows programming interfaces.

Microsoft spokesman Jim Cullinan said the company was reviewing its options in the case and stressed it believed a jury's earlier ruling in the case favouring Microsoft was the right one. A jury in July 1999 found that Microsoft had not violated any antitrust laws, but had violated Connecticut's Unfair Trade Practices Act. Bristol Technology had sought $263 million in damages, but the jury awarded damages totalling only $1.

But in September, Federal District Judge Janet Hall, who also delivered Monday's ruling, ordered Microsoft to pay $1 million in punitive damages. Bristol, during the trial, contended that the expiration of its licensing contract of Windows NT source code in September 1997 drastically reduced sales.

Bristol sells cross-platform development products that allow Windows applications to run on other operating systems such as Unix. Bristol has contended that Microsoft allowed the contract to lapse to discourage use of the Unix operating system, which rivals Microsoft's Windows NT. Microsoft has stated that a contract dispute occurred with Bristol over the licence.

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