Judge awards Bristol $US1M in Microsoft suit

Bristol alleged that Microsoft injured Bristol and the rest of the software industry through predatory manipulation of the access to Windows programming interfaces, according to the lawsuit filed in August 1998 in US District Court in the US state of Connecticut. A jury in July 1999 found that Microsoft had not violated any antitrust laws, but had violated the unfair trade practice's provision.

Federal District Judge Janet C Hall said in her opinion that Microsoft's actions "constitute affirmative acts of misconduct which were designed to injure those to whom they were directed, and wantonly risked serious injury, albeit of a purely economic nature," according to Bristol.

"When the judge ruled on the punitive damages, she wrote 103 pages of pretty scathing language," said Jean Blackwell, vice president of sales and marketing for Bristol. "That was true validation that we were right. That felt very good."

During the six-week trial in July 1999, the jury found that Microsoft had violated Connecticut's unfair trade practices act. However, it awarded damages totalling only $1. During Bristol's closing arguments in the trial, the company's legal counsel sought $263 million in damages.

Microsoft on Friday said the punitive damage ruling flies in the face of jury's decision.

"We will likely appeal this ruling," said Microsoft spokesman Rick Miller. "And overall, we were pleased with the jury's decision in favor of Microsoft in this case and believe that yesterday's ruling is not consistent with the jury's decision in July of 1999."

During the trial, Bristol contended the expiration of the licensing contract of Windows NT source code in September 1997 drastically reduced sales. Bristol sells cross-platform development products that allow Windows applications to run on other operating systems. Its key product, WIND/U, lets companies port applications from Windows to Unix.

Bristol has contended that Microsoft let the contract lapse to discourage use of the Unix operating system, which rivals Microsoft's Windows NT operating system. Microsoft, however, has stated that a contract dispute occurred with Bristol over the license.

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