Sun and Azul reach accord in patent spat

Long-running dispute between the server and software company and the smaller Java hardware maker ends with an undisclosed settlement, and both sides say they're content.

After more than a year of court battles, Sun Microsystems and Java hardware maker Azul Systems said Tuesday they have settled a dispute related to allegations of trade secrets misappropriation and patent infringement.

The financial terms and other settlement details were not disclosed, as is typical, but both sides said they were pleased. Sun chief legal counsel Mike Dillon described the terms as "favorable" to his company in a blog entry reflecting on the news.

"We certainly view that this is fair on both sides," Azul co-founder and chief operating officer Scott Sellers said in a telephone interview. "Both sides kind of gave and took, and we're happy with the results."

The tensions between the companies date back to early 2005. By Dillon's account, Sun suspected a new Azul server product may have been using Sun's technology without authorization--particularly since the Mountain View, Calif.-based start-up had hired about a dozen former Sun employees to work on that project.

Sun began a series of meetings with Azul to discuss its concerns, but attempts at negotiations broke down. In March 2006, Azul asked a federal judge for a finding that it had not infringed on 20 Sun patents.

Shortly afterward, Sun shot back with a countersuit that accused Azul of luring away at least eight technical employees and of selling systems that infringed on six of its patents. Azul sells hardware that's designed to centralize the execution of Java programs that run on servers.

Now that they've smoothed things over, "we certainly want to have a much healthier relationship with Sun in the market," Sellers said. "Customers in the overall Java community just lose when we're spending our time in courtrooms instead of innovating in the market."

 

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