Sun seeks $35 million in Java suit

In a new legal twist, Microsoft and Sun Microsystems make their Java licensing documents public on their Web sites.

4 min read
Sun Microsystems (SUNW) is seeking $35 million plus compensatory damages and attorneys fees in its lawsuit against Microsoft (MSFT) over the software giant's Java license.

The two companies released legal documents Jousting over Java today related to Sun's lawsuit charging that Microsoft violated its licensing agreement for the Java programming language, setting off a new round in the war of words between the two companies.

George Paolini, director of corporate marketing for Sun's JavaSoft unit, insisted today that Microsoft posted Sun source code on its Web site as part of Microsoft's software developers kit for Java.

"That's an outcry," Tod Nielsen, Microsoft's general manager of developer relations, told CNET's NEWS.COM. "They complain that we made their code publicly available. That's just not true. It's just another example of Sun crying wolf."

Sun's claim for $35 million in damages emerged in an amended legal complaint that Sun filed

Highlights of Microsoft's Java licensing agreement
  Microsoft is paying Sun $3.5 million per year over the five-year contract. The agreement may be extended an additional year for $3.5 million.
  Microsoft also is paying Sun an annual support fee of $250,000.
  Microsoft agreed that it "shall make the best effort to include the Java Application Environment 1.0 or a derivative work or independent work thereof, excluding the documentation, in the first new version of Internet Explorer that is released after the effective date" of the contract.
  Sun could receive $35 million in damages if licensee "intentionally and willfully" makes the source code of the technology available to the public within a ten-year period.
yesterday and posted on its JavaSoft site today, along with copies of Microsoft's Java licensing agreements. The contracts include both a technology license and a trademark license, both of which are posted. They indicate that Microsoft is paying Sun $3.5 million a year to license Java under the now-disputed five-year deal.

Microsoft also posted the licensing agreement this morning, along with its question-and-answer document on its Web site.

The documents, which had not been publicly available until today, are being posted after a joint stipulation to a judge handling the case, a JavaSoft spokeswoman said.

The postings probably will have little impact on Sun's lawsuit against Microsoft over its implementation of Java. However, the unusual public disclosure of the agreement underscores the wide interest in the legal dispute throughout the high-tech industry.

Even their agreement itself to publish the licensing contracts created new friction between the companies. Nielsen said Microsoft wanted the contracts public because Sun has chosen to fight the Java battle in the court of public opinion.

"They wanted to do that without giving the public the facts," he contended.

JavaSoft's Paolini countered: "The only reason the document was confidential was that we were respecting a clause in contract to keep it confidential. That clause requires mutual consent to publish the document."

He added the judge handling the case had raised the issue of publishing the contracts because of broad interest in the dispute. An agreement was reached in writing yesterday.

Nielsen charged that Sun paraphrased parts of the agreement in its legal complaint. "They actually took excerpts from the contract that were completely out of context.

Microsoft, in its Q&A posted on its site today, selectively cites sections of the legal contract that bolster its case but with minimal paraphrasing.

One key issue to emerge from the dueling documents is whether Microsoft has the reference implementation for Java on the Windows platform. JavaSoft president Alan Baratz has alleged that Microsoft's version is not the Windows reference implementation.

Microsoft's Nielsen notes that the term "reference implementation" appears dozens of times in the contract, but Sun's lawsuit claims that Microsoft's code must pass JavaSoft compatibility tests before it can be called a reference implementation.

On its Web site, Microsoft states that it is not required to ship JavaSoft's RMI (remote method invocation) because it has posted that code on its Web sites. Sun's Paolini said Microsoft is correct on that point but claims Sun cannot find the RMI code on Microsoft's Web site. Once found, the code still must pass the Java compatibility tests, he added.

Sun has sought an injunction to force Microsoft to comply with the contract, but Microsoft claims on its Web site that Sun can only seek monetary damages, not injunctive relief. Paolini would not respond on that point before checking with Sun lawyers.

He cautioned: "There is only one interpretation of the document that matters, and that is the court's." On the advice of its attorneys, JavaSoft declined to interpret the contracts with Microsoft.

On October 7, Sun sued Microsoft for breach of contract in its obligation to deliver a compatible implementation of Java technology in its products, particularly its latest browser, Internet Explorer 4.0. Sun also cut off Microsoft's access to its new Java technologies until the licensing dispute is settled.

Microsoft has not responded to Sun's complaint in court. "We now have between 20 to 30 days to respond. Our lawyers are working on that response," Nielsen said.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose, California, charges Microsoft with trademark infringement, false advertising, breach of contract, and unfair competition.

Sun says Microsoft's IE 4.0 and a software development kit failed Java compatibility tests. Microsoft denies the charges and says the suit will not affect its products.

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