Sun, MS Java battle delayed

Sun sued Microsoft in 1997, accusing the company of violating the terms of its Java licensing agreement by using an "impure" version of Sun's technology in its Internet Explorer browser, application development tools, and other Microsoft products.

Java is designed for writing applications that can run on any computer, regardless of its hardware and operating system. Sun says Microsoft viewed the "write once, run anywhere" capability as a threat to Windows. Sun says Microsoft tried to derail the technology by creating a version of Java that worked best with Windows.

At various pretrial hearings Microsoft has vehemently denied any wrongdoing, and it maintains that it has stuck to the letter of its licensing agreement with Sun.

At the case management conference previously scheduled for Friday in the US District Court in San Jose, California, Judge Ronald Whyte was expected to set a trial date. He was also to set deadlines to complete discovery and submit expert witness lists. The judge was also to hear all outstanding motions for summary judgment in the case.

Whyte postponed the hearing and the case management conference because of scheduling conflicts, according to Sun spokesperson Penny Bruce and Microsoft representative Jim Cullinan.

Microsoft and Sun have been in and out of the District Court arguing a slew of pretrial motions for more than two years.

Sun scored a significant victory in the case in November 1998 when Whyte, ruling Sun was likely to win its case based on the merits, issued a preliminary injunction that requires Microsoft to use a Sun-tested compatible version of Java in its products, at least through the trial.

A US federal Appeals Court judge suspended that preliminary injunction in August 1999. That judge ruled there is "significant evidence" that Microsoft violated its Java license, but questioned Judge Whyte's grounds for injunction and urged him to consider the matter further.

Whyte largely reinstated the injunction last January; however, it was under California's unfair competition statutes, not on the basis of copyright law as Sun had hoped.

Since then, the feud between the two companies has been broiling beneath the surface. In May, Microsoft won a small victory when Whyte dismissed a Sun claim that Microsoft had posted portions of Sun's Java source code on its website. Under terms of the contract between the companies, such a violation could have cost Microsoft a $US35 million penalty.

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James Niccolai

PC World
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