Sun Sues Microsoft Over Java

Sun escalates its battle for software supremacy with Microsoft, filing a lawsuit that claimed the software maker made Windows XP incompatible with Sun's Java language.

Sun Microsystems Inc. on Friday filed a private antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft Corp. for harm that it alleged was inflicted by Microsofts anticompetitive behavior with respect to the Java platform and for damages resulting from Microsofts illegal efforts to maintain and expand its monopoly power.

Sun also took aim at Microsofts .Net platform and strategy, alleging that its .Net Framework was designed to mimic the functions of Java. "The dropping of the Java Virtual Machine on the desktop is a significant antitrust violation. Microsoft is clearly trying to buy time and catch up with the Java platform," Michael Morris, Suns senior vice president and general counsel, said at a media conference this morning.

Todays filing follows similar charges by software develop Be Inc. and AOL Time Warner subsidiary Netscape.

Many of the charges Sun made against Microsoft are those upheld by the Washington D.C. Court of Appeals last year.

"Microsoft has engaged in illegal and monopolization and/or monopoly maintenance on the Intel-compatible PC operating system market as well as the office productivity suite market and the Web browser market," Morris said. "It has also attempted to illegally monopolize the workgroup server market, engaged in illegal tying of its Internet Explorer Web browser to its Windows PC operating system, tying Windows workgroup server operating systems to its PC operating system as well as tying its IIS Web server to its workgroup server operating system and the .Net Framework to its PC and workgroup operating systems."

Morris declined to say how much Sun is seeking in damages, but said, "We believe it is going to be substantial. I would be surprised if we cant clearly demonstrate the damage is north of $1 billion."

He also charged Microsoft with illegally entering into exclusive deals and exclusionary agreements with independent software vendors [Apple Computer Co. and Intel Corp.] not to develop for, distribute or use a non-Microsoft compatible implementation of the Java platform.

In its filing on Friday Sun said Microsofts anticompetitive behavior included fragmenting the Java platform; flooding the market with incompatible Java Runtime Environments; forcing other companies to distribute or use products that were incompatible with Java and significantly limiting Suns distribution channels for the Java Runtime Environment.

It also alleged that Microsoft had intentionally interfered with the development of Java-based applications for compatible runtimes; claimed copyright infringement resulting from Microsofts distribution of an unlicensed implementation of the Java Runtime Environment and its intentional creation of incompatibilities between Microsoft software and competing technologies, thereby raising switching costs for consumers and reducing consumer choice.

Morris said Sun is seeking preliminary injunctions requiring Microsoft to distribute Suns current binary implementation of the Java plug-in as part of Windows XP and Internet Explorer and stop distributing Microsofts Java Virtual Machine through separate downloads.

Sun is also seeking a permanent injunction requiring Microsoft to disclose and license proprietary interfaces, protocols, and formats and to unbundle tied products, such as Internet Explorer, IIS web server, and the .Net framework.

"We are seeking significant monetary damages from Microsoft for the harm done by Microsoft. While we do not want to quantify this amount at this point, it must be remembered that under antitrust law these damages are trebled," Morris said.

Microsoft spokesman Jim Desler told eWeek on Friday that while the company had not had the time to review the Sun filings as yet, and as such could not comment on specific allegations, "we feel it is time we all moved past these issues, many of which are related to the lawsuit we settled with Sun last year."

Maintaining Microsofts standard line used around all such lawsuits, he said the real losers in these matters were software developers and consumers, adding that "the industry is at its best when it focuses on innovation and exciting new products," Desler said.

"Millions of consumers who use Windows every day can easily access and use Java technology –and do so frequently. Any lack of broad consumer usage of Java is due only to Suns failure and has nothing whatsoever to do with Microsoft," he said.

Suns Morris said Microsoft had been found guilty by a Federal Courts of Appeal of abusing its monopoly situation in the desktop operating system market in June 2001. "The Court found Microsoft guilty of illegally abusing its monopoly power with respect to Sun and the Java platform. Suns suit seeks redress for the competitive and economic harm caused by Microsofts illegal acts," Morris said. "After careful consideration, Sun filed this suit in order to uphold its fiduciary responsibilities to its shareholders and employees."

In late 2000, Sun and Microsoft had agreed to settle an earlier lawsuit over Java in which Sun claimed Microsoft violated the Java license agreement by making proprietary changes to Java. The two agreed that Microsoft would eventually stop supporting Java in its products, but Morris said this suit is broader than the earlier one.

"This case includes a claim of unfair business practices, that is also brought under the federal antitrust laws as well as the antitrust laws of the state of California," Morris said. "It encompasses a range of behaviors beyond what they did with respect to Java, which was the only topic of the other case, including their behavior in the server operating systems market with respect to .Net."