Federal Court Blocks Microsoft on Java

FRAMINGHAM (01/28/2000) - A federal judge last week reinstated an injunction against Microsoft Corp. preventing it from developing its own version of Java to compete with rival Sun Microsystems Inc.

The action by U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Whyte prevents Microsoft from distributing operating systems, browsers or tools that fail to pass Sun's Java compatibility test. It also requires Microsoft to warn developers that incompatible tool kit products will result in applications that run only on Microsoft's implementations.

With the injunction, "things are much better for the Java community, because it ensures that we have standard Java on the Windows desktop and [that] Microsoft continues to lose this battle to subvert Java," said Anne Thomas Manes, an analyst at Patricia Seybold Group in Boston.

But Microsoft said the decision has no real impact because the company never veered from the terms of the initial injunction issued about one year ago.

"It's a status quo - it affects our customers in no way; it affects our products in no way," said Microsoft spokesman Jim Cullinan.

Whyte cited contract and copyright law as the reason for issuing the earlier injunction. An appeals court disagreed with the copyright violation contention and lifted the injunction. Whyte's new order removed that part of the claim.

A Sun lawsuit filed in 1997 alleges that Microsoft sought to take control of Java by "polluting" it with its own changes. Microsoft has asserted that any changes it made were designed to improve Java's ability to function with Windows.

Microsoft last week also took a hit from the government in its antitrust case.

In a brief it released, the government was dismissive of Microsoft's defense, accusing it of having "nothing of substance to say" in some parts and of evading the arguments raised by trial Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson in his findings of fact that the company is a monopoly.

The government brief was a rebuttal to an earlier filing by Microsoft. In that filing, the company argued it wasn't a monopoly and, observers said, sought to set up its case for later appeals.

The government has accused Microsoft of violating antitrust law, which Microsoft denies. Both sides are meeting with a court-appointed mediator in an effort to arrive at a settlement. The prospects for any settlement remain bleak.

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