Microsoft stymied in Sun Java case

A US judge has ruled that, for the time being, Microsoft cannot independently develop software based on Sun Microsystems' Java technology, leaving the issue to be resolved at trial.

Microsoft had sought a summary judgment from US District Judge Ronald Whyte, asking him to allow the software giant to develop and distribute products that are based on technologies similar to Sun's Java programming language.

Sun had also filed a counter motion asking that the judge force Microsoft to abide by the restrictions of its 1995 Java licensing and distribution agreement with Sun.

Whyte, in a ruling filed yesterday in US District Court in San Jose, California, said arguments by Microsoft and Sun were "equally plausible" and should be left to the eventual lawsuit trial for resolution.

The dispute stems from Sun's 1997 lawsuit against Microsoft, in which Sun alleged Microsoft violated the terms of the licensing agreement by altering its Java technology, thereby making it incompatible with Sun's Java. A trial date in the lawsuit has not been set.

Both Sun and Microsoft separately said that the judge's ruling favoured their positions.

"Sun is confident it will prevail on this matter at trial," Sun said in a statement.

"Sun is trying to prevent Microsoft and third parties from developing technology that competes with Sun," Jim Cullinan, a Microsoft spokesman, said today in a telephone interview. "The judge said he'll let the issue go to a jury and let the jury decide.''One analyst said that, although Java has become a popular programming language for Internet-based operating environments, Microsoft can afford to wait until the trial for the resolution of the issue because the company can sell software based on other programming languages.

"Microsoft didn't win on this ruling but they didn't lose either," Anne Thomas Manes, a senior analyst with the Boston-based Patricia Seybold Group said. "Microsoft has basically come up with a new strategy that doesn't include Java -- it uses (programming languages) XML (extensible markup language), C++ and Visual Basic to run on its Microsoft platforms."

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