SAN FRANCISCO (08/10/2000) - Sun Microsystems Inc. will have to wait a little longer to find out when its epic Java lawsuit against Microsoft Corp. will come to trial, after a case management conference that had been due to take place Friday afternoon was postponed until later this year, a Sun spokeswoman said.
Sun filed suit against Microsoft in 1997, accusing the company of violating the terms of its Java licensing agreement by using an "impure" version of Sun's technology in its Internet Explorer browser, application development tools and other products.
Java is designed for writing applications that can run on any computer regardless of its underlying hardware and operating system. According to Sun, Microsoft viewed that "write once, run anywhere" capability as a threat to the widespread use of Windows, and tried to derail the technology by creating a version of Java that worked best with Microsoft's own operating system.
At various pretrial hearings Microsoft has vehemently denied any wrongdoing, and maintains that it has stuck to the letter of its licensing agreement with Sun.
At the case management conference scheduled for Friday afternoon in the U.S.
District Court in San Jose, California, District Court Judge Ronald Whyte had been expected to set a date for the trial. He was also due to set deadlines for the completion of discovery and the submission of expert witness lists.
The judge further was to conduct a hearing over all of the outstanding motions for summary judgment in the case. Lawyers for each side were to have been given an hour each to argue over the remaining motions, according to a court scheduling order issued in May.
But Whyte has postponed the hearing due to "scheduling conflicts," and will set a new date later this year for the case management conference, Sun spokeswoman Penny Bruce said. Microsoft didn't immediately return a call seeking comment.
At pretrial hearings over the past two-and-a-half years, the companies have been in and out of the District Court arguing over a whole slew of motions.
Sun scored a significant victory in the case in November 1998 when Whyte, determining that Sun was likely to win its case based on the merits, issued a preliminary injunction requiring Microsoft to use a compatible version of Java in its products at least for the duration of the trial.
In a surprise turnaround, a federal appeals court suspended that preliminary injunction in August last year. While there was "significant evidence" to suggest that Microsoft had violated its Java license, the appeals court questioned the grounds on which Judge Whyte had granted the injunction, and asked him to give it further consideration.
Whyte largely reinstated the injunction in January this year. In a mixed ruling for Sun, however, he reinstated the injunction under California's unfair competition statutes and not on the basis of copyright law as Sun had hoped.
Since then, the feud between the two companies has been broiling beneath the surface. In May, Microsoft won a small victory when Whyte dismissed a Sun claim that Microsoft had posted portions of Sun's Java source code on its Web site.
Under terms of the contract between the companies, such a violation could have cost Microsoft a US$35 million penalty.
Both sides have posted links to court filings and other documents on their Web sites. Microsoft's are at http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/java/default.asp/, and Sun's are at http://java.sun.com/lawsuit/index.html/.
Microsoft, in Redmond, Washington, can be reached at +1-425-882-8080 or at http://www.microsoft.com/. Sun, in Palo Alto, California, can be reached at +1-650-960-1300 or at http://www.sun.com/.