The decision by U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz had been expected after the judge on Dec. 23 that Sun stood a good chance of winning its antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft and told both sides to craft a preliminary injunction. Teams of lawyers from the companies worked through the weekend and handed the proposed order to Motz on Monday.
In the 11-page order, Motz gave Sun what it requested when filing the lawsuit: an injunction ordering Microsoft immediately to stop distributing incompatible versions of Sun's Java interpreter and to begin shipping authorized versions with Windows and Internet Explorer in four months. The injunction will remain in effect until a trial takes place or an appeals court lifts the requirements.
"This preliminary injunction is a huge victory for consumers who will soon have the best, latest Java technology on their PCs," Lee Patch, Sun's vice president for strategic litigation, said Tuesday. "It is also a victory for enterprises and for the worldwide Java community of developers and system vendors."
Microsoft said it would likely file its appeal to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this week and ask the higher court to place Motz's injunction on hold until the case can be heard. "We do not agree that Sun's entitled to its injunction, and we will appeal the injunction as indicated," said Microsoft spokesman Jim Desler.
The Java language lets programs run without alterations on a variety of computers. Because a Java program can run, for instance, on a mainframe from IBM, a Unix server from Sun and a Windows PC from Dell Computer, it represents a threat to Microsoft.
Part of Tuesday's order says that, effective immediately, Microsoft may no longer distribute "any product that includes any copy of Microsoft's Virtual Machine for Java other than" software licensed from Sun. In general, it also prevents Microsoft from distributing its own Java interpreter in future products except as necessary to fix "critical security vulnerabilities or critical customer defects." Shipments of Windows XP will not be affected.
However, because Microsoft has indicated it would appeal, Motz said that Tuesday's order would not actually take effect for 14 days.
Motz's order also gives Microsoft 120 days to include Sun's Java runtime environment in every copy of Windows and Internet Explorer it sells. For versions of Windows in languages other than English, Microsoft need not include Sun's software until it receives a localized version.
Microsoft must also "notify customers via any and all Microsoft update services" that the latest Java software is available and "refrain from disabling" Java, the order says. The software giant said it did not immediately know Windows XP users would be notified.
Sun has pinned much of its hopes on a June 2001in the antitrust case brought by the U.S. Justice Department and some state attorneys general. In that decision, a federal appeals court ruled that Microsoft had illegally tried to maintain its operating system monopoly in an attempt to eradicate competitive products such as Java and Netscape's Web browser.
In October, Motzthat he would allow Sun to use some of those earlier legal conclusions in the current lawsuit. No trial date has been set, and legal experts believe it might not happen until 2004.
Sun's case also builds on a previous legal assault on its rival, which began in October 1997 and alleged that Microsoft violated its license agreement by distributing incompatible versions of Java and deceptively promoted those versions as compatible. The two companies settled in January 2001, with Microsoft agreeing to pay Sun $20 million.
Much of Sun's current case relies on predictions, saying that if Microsoft had not wielded its market power so ruthlessly, Java would have been more successful. "But for Microsoft's unlawful fragmentation of the Java platform and its unlawful attack on the distribution of the Navigator and Java platforms, the installed base of these alternative platforms would have been far greater today," Sun said in court documents.
Sun argues that Microsoft is now trying to supplement--or even replace--its Windows monopoly by encouraging developers to write code for the .Net platform instead. In addition, Sun says, "Microsoft has refused to port Office to competing platforms in order to illegally maintain its monopoly" and to force consumers to purchase products such as Microsoft's Exchange Server, Internet Information Server and SQL Server.