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Judge may rule soon in Sun-Microsoft hearing

November 9, 1998
Web posted at: 10:25 AM EDT

by James Niccolai


(IDG) -- More evidence in Sun Microsystems' Java lawsuit against Microsoft was unsealed by a California district court, paving the way for the judge overseeing the case to make a ruling on Sun's request for a preliminary injunction.

Close to 2,000 pages of previously sealed documents were released by the court, including transcripts of depositions made by executives from both companies, as well as internal company e-mails and memos submitted by each company to bolster its case.

U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Whyte said before the hearing's conclusion in September of this year that he would not make a ruling until all the information that could be made available to the public had been released.

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Should Whyte rule in Sun's favor, the preliminary injunction would force Microsoft to halt shipment of Windows 98, Internet Explorer 4.0, and its Java development tools until it makes changes that bring them into line with Sun's Java specifications.

Whyte has indicated he will rule as soon as possible, but has given no indication when exactly that will be. A hearing for Sun's last motion for a preliminary injunction -- to prevent Microsoft from using the Java-compatible logo on its products -- was held Feb. 27, and Whyte issued a ruling in Sun's favor about four weeks later.

The current preliminary injunction hearing concluded Sept. 10. Since that time a retired state judge appointed as a "special master" in the case has been wading through the volumes of material submitted to decide what can be made public.

Last month a handful of motions were released in which lawyers for both sides quoted from e-mails and other internal documents that they said were relevant to the case. The material unsealed Thursday consists mostly of the full texts of those exhibits.

In one such e-mail, a Sun executive admits, "I don't think our folks who negotiated and agreed to these terms [in Microsoft's Java contract] understood at the time what they meant."

Meanwhile, in an internal Microsoft memo, a Microsoft official opines that "Without something to pollute Java more to Windows [more cool features that are only in Windows], we expose ourselves to more portable code on other platforms," court records show.

Sun filed its lawsuit against Microsoft in October 1997, charging Microsoft with reneging on its Java licensing contract by releasing an "impure" version of Java in its products, thus disrupting Java's ability to run on any operating system.

Microsoft did this, according to Sun, because it saw Java as a threat to the hegemony of its Windows operating system. Microsoft denies the charges.

A trial date has not yet been set.

Microsoft's conduct with Sun and the Java technology has also come under scrutiny in the U.S. government's antitrust case against Microsoft, currently underway in Washington.

James Niccolai is a San Francisco correspondent for the IDG News Service.

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