Microsoft-Bristol case goes to jury this week

A jury will begin on Wednesday to determine whether Microsoft violated antitrust laws in a bid to expand Windows NT's market share. Bristol Technologies, the small software firm that brought the private antitrust suit against Microsoft finished with its final rebuttal witness on Friday.

A nine-member jury will start deliberations on Wednesday to determine whether Microsoft violated antitrust laws in a bid to expand Windows NT's share of the workstation and server market.

Bristol Technologies, the small Danbury, Connecticut-based software firm that brought the private antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft last August, finished with its final rebuttal witness on Friday.

"There is a lot of evidence and documents to look at and I'll be surprised if the jury returns a verdict before the end of next week," said Patrick Lynch, a partner with law firm O'Melveny & Myers LLP, representing Bristol.

"It could take one hour, it could take five days; you never know with a jury," Microsoft spokesman Tom Pilla said.

Bristol is seeking a court order forcing Microsoft to turn over its valuable Windows NT source code, as well as unspecified damages. Microsoft vehemently denies any wrongdoing.

Before deliberations begin, the jury of five men and four women on Tuesday will hear two and a half hours of closing arguments from each side. Lawyers will attempt to tie together evidence and testimony presented since the trial began on June 3.

Bristol makes Wind/U, a suite of software products used to port Windows applications to other operating systems, including Unix. In 1994, the company joined Microsoft's Windows NT source code licensing program, called WISE, providing it access to Microsoft's Windows NT code.

Bristol claims in its lawsuit that Microsoft behaved anticompetitively by refusing to renew Bristol's WISE license on reasonable terms. The license expired in 1997, and Bristol says it must have access to the latest Windows NT code to keep building Wind/U.

According to Bristol, Microsoft backed Wind/U because it saw it as a way to encourage Unix developers to start writing applications using Windows APIs (application programming interfaces). A wider selection of development tools are available for Windows, and some developers liked the idea of using Windows tools and then porting their completed applications to Unix using Wind/U, Bristol's Lynch said.

When Windows NT's share of the server and workstation market started to increase, Microsoft no longer saw its support of Wind/U as advantageous, Bristol's lawsuit claims. Microsoft subsequently refused to renew Bristol's source code license on fair terms, effectively crippling Wind/U and leaving a legion of newly-converted Unix developers writing Windows applications, according to Bristol.

For its part, Microsoft denies that it is a monopoly, and says its conduct towards Bristol has not been illegal. The software giant says Bristol is using the courts to unfairly gain an advantage over a competitor, Mainsoft Corp., which makes a similar product to Wind/U. Microsoft also claims that Mainsoft is licensing Windows NT source code under "virtually identical" terms as those which Bristol is calling unreasonable, Microsoft spokesman Pilla said.

As Microsoft sees it, the squabble between the companies is a contract dispute, and has nothing to do with antitrust law.

Bristol called its final rebuttal witness today, John Silvestri of Westmont, Illinois-based Gamma Technologies Inc., a company that makes analysis software that simulates internal combustion engines. Gamma was a Wind/U customer, and Bristol tried to use Silvestri's testimony to show the jury the harm suffered as a result of Microsoft's behavior, Bristol attorney Lynch said.

Both companies have posted background information about the case and court filings on their Web sites. Bristol's is at http://www.bristol.com/legal/index.html; Microsoft's is at http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/bti/.

Bristol Technology Inc., in Danbury, Connecticut, can be reached at 1+1-203-798-1007, or at http://www.bristol.com. In Redmond, Washington, Microsoft can be reached at +1-425-882-8080, or at http://www.microsoft.com.

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