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San Francisco (January 23, 2001) -- Microsoft has agreed to pay Sun Microsystems US0 million as part of an agreement to settle a bitter, 3-year legal battle over its use of Sun's Java programming language.
In a statement Tuesday afternoon, Microsoft said it reached an agreement with Sun to settle both the October 1997 breach of contract lawsuit that Sun filed against Microsoft, as well a countersuit filed by Microsoft against Sun shortly afterwards.
Under terms of the settlement, the Java licensing agreement signed between the companies in 1996 is now terminated, Microsoft said. The license had been due to expire in 2 months.
Microsoft can continue to ship existing products that use Sun's technology -- based on the outdated Java version 1.1.4 -- as well as those currently in beta, for a period of 7 years. However, all future versions of those products must pass Sun's Java compatibility tests, Sun said in a separate statement. In return, Microsoft has agreed to pay Sun 0 million.
Microsoft has also agreed not to use Sun's Java compatibility trademark -- represented by a steaming coffee cup logo -- something that Microsoft was barred from doing by a 1998 court order imposed during the long-running dispute. Sun said the agreement would "protect the future integrity" of its Java technology.
"It's pretty simple: This is a victory for our licensees and consumers," Sun Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Scott McNealy said in the statement.
The settlement comes one day before the companies were due to meet in U.S. District Court for a case management hearing, where the judge overseeing the dispute had been expected to set a date for the case to come to trial.
The dispute dates back to a Java licensing agreement that Microsoft signed in 1996. In November the following year, Sun filed suit against Microsoft for breach of contract, accusing the company of distributing a version of Java that was not compatible with Sun's. Sun amended its complaint in May 1998 to include charges of unfair competition and copyright infringement.
Sun has argued in court that Microsoft viewed Java's "Write Once, Run Anywhere" capability as a threat to Windows, because Java reduced the incentive for software developers to write programs for the Microsoft operating system.
According to Sun, the version of Java distributed by Microsoft worked better with its Windows software. Such a move threatened Java's ability to provide a cross-platform development environment, Sun's lawyers said.
Microsoft has vehemently denied any wrongdoing and has maintained that it stuck to the letter of its licensing agreement with Sun. Any changes Microsoft made to Java merely allowed developers to take advantage of features specific to Windows, the company has argued.
The case has been watched closely, and Microsoft's dealings with Java were cited by U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson in the U.S. government's antitrust case against Microsoft as evidence of the software giant's anticompetitive behavior.