Sun renews legal battle against Microsoft

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11 March 2002 Systems vendor Sun Microsystems has renewed its anti-trust battle with software giant Microsoft by filing a lawsuit that seeks at least $1 billion (€1.14bn) in damages and widespread curbs on Microsoft’s business practices.

Sun alleges that Microsoft’s anti-competitive behaviour has “illegally impeded” Sun’s business and damaged its Java software platform. In a statement, Sun legal counsel Michael Morris said: “We believe sales of our server products have been impacted by Microsoft’s anti-competitive behaviour. What is at stake here is the future of an open software industry and an open internet.”

The company’s case against Microsoft builds on the issues raised in the US government’s case against the company. Sun argues that, given that Microsoft has already been found guilty of illegally protecting its monopoly in PC operating systems, it should be prevented from taking advantage of that position in order to move into new markets. Sun’s primary concern seems to be the likely impact of Microsoft’s .Net initiative on the market for server software.

Sun has requested an injunction that requires Microsoft to distribute Sun’s Java Virtual Machine (JVM) with its own products. A JVM allows applications written in the Java programming language to be portable across different hardware environments and operating systems.

It also seeks to prevent Microsoft from extending Internet technologies in proprietary ways, which would bar the company from distributing any new product that builds on published technology standards approved by industry organisations.

It is Sun’s second lawsuit against Microsoft. The first, filed in 1997, was a contractual dispute involving the Java programming language, which Sun invented and Microsoft licensed.

The case was eventually settled out of court. Sun’s new suit follows a similar action by media conglomerate AOL Time Warner, filed in January 2002, which alleges that Microsoft’s business practice damaged its Netscape web browser business.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is still fighting the stringent restraints demanded by the nine rebel US states that have so far refused to accept the proposed settlement between Microsoft, the US Department of Justice and nine other states.

The hearing to decide the remedies for the nine rebel states will commence on 18 March. Microsoft has claimed that the stringent restraints initially proposed by the states in December 2001 were so severe that they would force the company to withdraw Windows from the market. The states have since made minor modifications to their proposed penalties.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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