The phrase "when it rains, it pours" means a lot more to Microsoft these days than simply Seattle's wet weather. In addition to the monumental antitrust case brought by the US federal government and the Sun Microsystems Java lawsuit in California, Microsoft was sued three more times this month.
Microsoft took action against Sun last week with the announcement that it would appeal a California federal judge's preliminary injunction forcing it to comply with Sun's version of the Java programming language -- despite the fact that Microsoft had already made its products compliant.
"We are confident that Microsoft has developed the best Java implementation within the terms of our contract with Sun and in the best interests of Java developers and consumers," said Tom Burt, a Microsoft lawyer.
But the rest of Microsoft's recent legal action has come in the form of complaints. A hardware maker accused Microsoft of stealing its ergonomic mouse design; a developer sued the company, claiming that its tools aren't year-2000 compliant; and an Internet greeting card company charged the software giant with trying to run it out of business.
The hardware maker, Goldtouch Technologies, filed suit in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Texas, accusing Microsoft of stealing trade secrets, patent infringement, and fraud. It is seeking US$1 billion in punitive damages.
Goldtouch said it showed its mouse design to Microsoft in September 1997, in hopes the larger company would license and market it. Instead, Goldtouch said, Microsoft copied the mouse's design, added new features, and produced a "knock-off" product, IntelliMouse Pro.
In Chicago, developer Ruth Kaczmarek filed a year-2000 lawsuit against Microsoft in a federal court, alleging that FoxPro 2.5 and 2.6 and Visual FoxPro 3.0 do not automatically recognize 2000 as a new century.
"We posted information on this product before the suit was filed and have continued to maintain that information," said Adam Sohn, a Microsoft representative. He added that since the FoxPro software was released between 1993 and 1995, the installed base might not be large enough to warrant a fix.
And Blue Mountain Arts sued Microsoft in California Superior Court with charges that the software giant is trying to squash competition in the Internet greeting card market.
Blue Mountain alleged that Microsoft set up a competing electronic greeting card Internet site, and late in November distributed a trial version of its Internet Explorer software with a particular e-mail filter that sends Blue Mountain cards into a junk mail folder, rather than to the intended recipient.
(Additional reporting by Elinor Mills, James Niccolai, and Nancy Weil, IDG News Service, an InfoWorld affiliate)