Bristol CEO says Microsoft misled his company

Bristol Technologies' chief executive officer has told a US court that Microsoft misled his company during their negotiations over a 1994 source code licensing deal. Keith Blackwell's testimony wrapped up the first full week of trial in Bristol's private antitrust suit.

Bristol Technologies' chief executive officer has told a US court that Microsoft misled his company during their negotiations over a 1994 source code licensing deal.

Keith Blackwell's testimony wrapped up the first full week of trial in Bristol's private antitrust suit filed last August, in which it accuses Microsoft of violating antitrust laws by refusing to renew Bristol's Windows NT source code licensing contract on reasonable terms.

Bristol makes a suite of software products called Wind/U, used by developers to port Windows applications to other operating systems, including Unix. The company says it can't build its product without access to the latest Windows NT code.

Blackwell told the court that during the 1994 negotiations and in the years that followed, Microsoft led his company to believe that it would be granted continued access to the full source code for future versions of Windows NT.

"That was the message they spread; that's what they told us, the developers and the public," said Anthony Clapes, a principal with the Technology Law Network, a consortium of lawyers and law professors representing Bristol.

When Bristol's license came up for renewal in 1997, Microsoft no longer saw its relationship with Bristol as beneficial and refused to renew the deal on acceptable terms, Clapes said.

"The refusal to deal (with a company) is a classic antitrust predatory practice," Clapes said.

Microsoft denies any wrongdoing, and says the matter is a contract dispute and not a question of antitrust law.

Earlier today Bob Kruger, a former Microsoft employee who negotiated Bristol's original contract, told the court that Bristol's contract gives no assurance that it will have access to future versions of Windows source code, Microsoft spokesman Tom Pilla said. Furthermore, contrary to Bristol's claim, Microsoft has made the company a reasonable offer, but Bristol has chosen not to accept it, Pilla said.

Late this afternoon, the judge hearing the case handed Microsoft a small victory by striking down one of Bristol's four motions for summary judgment, according to Pilla. In her order, Judge Janet Hall ruled that Microsoft's software does not constitute an "essential facility," Pilla said.

Bristol could not be contacted again late today to comment on the ruling.

Bristol's lawyers say the trial will heat up early next week when they call to the stand Dan Neault, the Microsoft employee who has been responsible for negotiating Bristol's new contract.

The trial, which is being heard in U.S. District Court in Bridgeport, Connecticut, is expected to conclude by the end of July.

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 Technologies 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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