Court makes tentative rulings in Sun-MS case

A federal court has issued several tentative, non-binding rulings in Sun Microsystems' lawsuit against Microsoft over use of Java technology -- saying that several Microsoft products infringed on Sun's source code copyrights and that Microsoft may distribute 'independently developed' software tools that don't comply with Sun Java compatibility tests.

A federal court has issued several tentative, non-binding rulings in Sun Microsystems' lawsuit against Microsoft over use of Java technology -- that several Microsoft products infringed on Sun's source code copyrights and that Microsoft may distribute "independently developed" software tools that don't comply with Sun Java compatibility tests.

The tentative rulings are not final or binding decisions, but serve as preliminary decisions that will help the two sides focus their arguments in hearings. Sun and Microsoft each filed five motions for summary judgment on Jan. 22 and District Court Judge Ronald Whyte in San Jose, California, issued tentative rulings on three of those 10 motions yesterday. At the end of each tentative ruling the court asked questions that will guide lawyers for both sides in addressing the pertinent issues that need to be resolved before a final decision is rendered.

The court has scheduled a hearing on the tentative rulings for June 24 at 2 p.m. The court may also issue other tentative rulings on the remaining motions at any time, Sun spokeswoman Lisa Poulson said.

The tentative rulings do not impact a preliminary injunction Sun was granted on Nov. 17, 1998, which Microsoft has appealed, according to Poulson. In that ruling, Judge Whyte ordered Microsoft to make changes to some of its products so that they include a version of Java that will pass Sun's compatibility test suite. An appellate court is scheduled to hear that appeal on June 16, Poulson said.

In one tentative ruling, the court said that Windows 98, Internet Explorer 4.0 and the VJ++ 6.0 (Visual Java) developer's tool infringed on Sun's copyrights for source code and that Microsoft exceeded its license with Sun because Microsoft distributed the products even though they failed to pass Sun's Java compatibility test suite, according to Sun.

In another tentative ruling, the court said Microsoft may distribute "independently developed" software tools that do not comply with the Java compatibility requirements of Sun's license agreement, as long as the products do not infringe any Sun copyright, patent or other intellectual property, Sun said. The court noted that Sun did not have an opportunity to respond to some of Microsoft's arguments and asked Sun to file a brief on those by June 4.

The court also tentatively constrained the timing of Sun's delivery of its Supplemental Java Classes that use upgraded virtual machine technology to Microsoft until after Microsoft has complied with its obligation to develop and ship an implementation that incorporates Sun's upgraded Virtual Machine technology, Poulson of Sun explained.

"Microsoft complained that Sun had delivered the technology too quickly," she said. "So the question is, is the court going to order us to deliver technology more slowly based on what Microsoft requests?"

Microsoft spokesman Jim Cullinan said it was premature to respond to the tentative rulings since they are not binding.

Microsoft, in Redmond, Washington, can be reached at +1-425-882-8080 or at http://www.microsoft.com/. Sun, in Palo Alto, California, can be reached at +1-415-786-7737 or at http://www.sun.com/.

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