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Sun and Microsoft settle their dispute over Java

Sun Microsystems and Microsoft yesterday announced that they have settled a long-running dispute over Java, the platform-independent programming language developed by Sun, with Microsoft agreeing to pay its rival the sum of $20 million for past use of the technology. Microsoft has also agreed to stop using Sun’s “Java Compatible” trade mark.24 Jan 2001

Introduced six years ago, the Java technology is now licensed by 200 companies and used by 2.5 million developers. Sun says of Java, “it is the fastest growing application platform in history, and now runs on everything from the smallest cell phones to the largest enterprise servers. Sun's Java technology has been called a de facto platform for e-business solutions.”

The dispute arose when Microsoft licensed the technology from Sun in 1996, promising to deliver only compatible implementations of the technology. Sun argued that Microsoft then broke its promise when it began distributing incompatible implementations so that applications written to those implementations would run only on Windows.

Sun repeatedly asked Microsoft to stop shipping incompatible implementations of the Java technology. Microsoft refused. As a result, Sun terminated the Technology Licensing and Distribution Agreement.

"Microsoft has proven time and again that it is unwilling to abide by the common rules of the internet," said Patricia Sueltz, Sun's executive vice president. "Its behaviour with regard to the Java technology was just one instance. And when presented with the choice of compatibility or termination, Microsoft chose termination."

With the contract terminated, Sun and Microsoft have agreed to end the current litigation, initiated in October, 1997 before Judge Ronald M. Whyte in U.S. District Court in San Jose, under the following general terms:

The Court will enter a permanent injunction barring Microsoft from using the JAVA COMPATIBLE trademark.

To protect developers and consumers who have already invested in Microsoft's implementations of the Java technology, Sun has agreed to grant Microsoft a limited license to continue shipping essentially "as is" its currently shipping implementations of the outdated 1.1.4 version of the Java technology. Those products have already been modified to comply with injunctions secured by Sun in the litigation.

The license covers only the products that already contain the Java technology, and lasts only for seven years.

Beyond that, Microsoft has no rights to distribute the Java technology, or to otherwise use any of Sun's intellectual property.