Judge Orders Microsoft to Pay US$1M to Bristol

A federal judge last week said Bristol Technologies deserved $US1 million in punitive damages from Microsoft and not the $US1 a jury originally awarded in the case.

The 103-page decision by Judge Janet C. Hall in U.S District Court in Bridgeport, Connecticut, is a stunning turnaround for the company that was clearly disappointed with the jury's verdict in July 1999.

"We really do feel vindicated," said Jean Blackwell, a vice president at the company. The judge "agreed that the facts we presented were right."

In 1998, Bristol, a Danbury, Conn.-based company that builds software that allows Windows applications to run on competing operating platforms, filed suit against Microsoft. The lawsuit charged that Microsoft sought to end access to Windows programming interfaces and source code, which was used to create Wind/U, a Bristol product that allows porting of Windows to Unix, OpenVMS and OS/390 operating systems.

The jury had cleared Microsoft of antitrust violations but found that the company had violated Connecticut's Unfair Trade Practices Act.

"We will likely appeal this ruling," said Microsoft spokesman Rick Miller. "Microsoft is pleased with the jury's decision in favor of Microsoft in this case and believe that the [judge's] ruling is not consistent with the jury's decision."

In her ruling, the judge said the jury's award "of nominal damages indicates only that the damages to Bristol's business were not sufficiently quantified by the proof Bristol offered." Nevertheless, the judge wrote, "the jury clearly did find that Bristol suffered an ascertainable loss to its business from Microsoft's deceptive act or practice."

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