Jury Rules for Kodak in Java Patent Dispute

A jury finds that Sun Microsystems infringed on Kodak's patents when it created and released Java. Kodak seeks more than $1 billion in damages; Sun is expected to appeal.

Eastman Kodak Co. won the first round of a Java lawsuit against Sun Microsystems Inc. that could impact Suns bottom line and possibly threaten Microsofts .Net platform.

A Rochester, N.Y., jury found Friday that Sun infringed on Kodaks patents when it created Java and released the technology in 1995. Kodak is based in Rochester and is the citys largest employer.

At issue are three patents that Kodak inherited when it acquired Wang Laboratories Inc. in 1997. Kodak claims that Java infringes on parts of the three patents.

"Kodak has made and continues to make substantial technology investments to ensure high-quality products," said James Blamphin, a spokesman for the company. "We are pleased that the court has validated our intellectual property rights protecting these valuable innovations for the benefit of our customers and shareholders."

One of the patents at issue indicates a means by which "two processes that are to cooperate in a data-interchange operation identify each other, and to identify data formats they have in common." And some observers say that, taken broadly, the same patents might be used to claim infringement by Microsofts .Net platform.

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Sun denied that it infringed on the Kodak patents during a three-week trial, and it will likely appeal the judgment. But this week, the trial will enter the penalties phase, where both sides will argue over what penalty should be imposed on Sun. Kodak is seeking more than $1 billion in damages.

Sun intends to vigorously defend its intellectual property, company spokeswoman May Petry said in a statement. "We are disappointed with the federal jurys decision and are examining our options as we prepare for the liability phase of a two-phase jury trial," the statement said.

"We intend to put on a vigorous defense and hope to reach a decision that will be in the best interest of shareholders, customers and Sun. We will also continue to vigorously protect and defend our IP when appropriate."

Next Page: Javalobby.orgs president and others offer their take on the case.