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Sun, Microsoft trade Java barbs

Sun Microsystems argues in court that its Java logo should be removed from Microsoft's products until they pass a suite of compatibility tests.

    SAN JOSE, California--Sun Microsystems (SUNW) took its rancorous dispute with Microsoft (MSFT) over its programming language to court today, arguing that the Java logo should be removed from the software giant's products until they pass a suite of compatibility tests.

    The 50-minute hearing here before U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte is only the latest round in the high-profile battle between the two software titans.

    The conflict stems from a complaint Sun filed in October alleging that Microsoft's version of Java did not pass a compatibility test imposed on all licensees of the programming language, which Sun promotes as running across multiple computer platforms. The licensing contract requires Microsoft to stop using the logo on its products until they pass compatibility tests, and Sun alleges that as long as Microsoft fails the test, the software giant is in breach of the licensing contract.

    Sun accused Microsoft of intentionally trying to "balkanize" Java, and has alleged that Microsoft is not entitled to use the Java-compatible logo on its products until they pass independent tests designed to ensure that different versions of Java are able to interoperate.

    Microsoft, meanwhile, has countered that its implementation of Java passes all the tests specified under a license agreement the two companies signed previously.

    Sun attorney Lloyd "Rusty" Day disputed that defense at today's hearing, during which Sun argued for an injunction to immediately halt Microsoft's use of the logo.

    "Their own testing reveals [the products fail]," said Day, an attorney at Cooley Godward. "Under trademark law, before they can put this [logo] on their product, they have to have Sun's approval."

    Microsoft attorney Dave McDonald, however, saw things differently.

    "We passed every test that we agreed to pass under the agreement to use that logo," McDonald told the court. He further accused Sun of changing the suite of tests after Microsoft had inked the deal.

    Under the terms of the license agreement, he added, Sun is barred from getting the very injunction it is now requesting.

    On February 6, Microsoft filed court briefs arguing that a licensing contract it signed in the past bars Sun from pulling the Java logo off its products, in response to a motion Sun made last November requesting a preliminary injunction that would stop Microsoft from displaying the logo on its Internet Explorer and Software Developer Kit for Java. Microsoft opposed Sun's motion.

    On February 13, Sun reiterated its reasons why the logo for its programming language should be removed from Microsoft's products. Sun also asked U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Whyte to deny Microsoft's request to throw out evidence Sun submitted earlier in the ongoing dispute.

    The outcome of the dispute could have important repercussions for the entire computer industry. A programming language that could seamlessly run on any platform eventually could shatter Microsoft's dominance in computer operating systems. In court papers, Sun has accused Microsoft of deliberately trying to sabotage Java by splintering it into different versions. Microsoft, however, says the case boils down to a simple contract dispute, and argues that, under the terms of the contract, it has the right to modify Java.

    Whyte took Sun's motion for an injunction under submission and gave no indication as to when he might deliver a final ruling on the matter.