Sun, Kodak settle Java lawsuit

Sun Microsystems has agreed to pay US$92 million to settle a software patent lawsuit brought against it by Eastman Kodak, Sun announced Thursday.

The settlement comes just six days after a New York jury found Sun guilty of violating Kodak's patents, but before any damages had been awarded. Kodak had been seeking US$1.06 billion in lump sum royalties in the case.

Under the terms of the settlement, filed Thursday with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York, Sun has licensed all of Kodak's patents for use with its Java-based products, said May Petry, a Sun spokeswoman. However, the agreement does not cover non-Java technologies like Sun's StarOffice productivity suite or Solaris operating system, she said.

Kodak launched the lawsuit in 2002, claiming that Sun's Java programming language had violated three patents issued in the mid-1990s. Kodak acquired the patents as part of its 1997 purchase of Wang Laboratories's imaging software unit

Developers and industry analysts had criticized the jury's verdict, saying that Kodak's patents covered techniques that had, in fact, been around since the 1960s.

"This is one of the things when you hit your head and say how can this possibly be valid...If Java does these things and infringes, then what doesn't," said Jonathan Eunice, an analyst with the research firm Illuminata Inc during a Monday interview.

By settling the lawsuit, Sun isn't necessarily agreeing that the Kodak patents are valid, but it does appear to be taking a step back from its previous stance of dismissing the patent claims as being without merit.

"We are not admitting or denying the allegations," Petry said Thursday.

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