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Microsoft countersues Sun on Java licensing (1997)

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New York (October 27, 1997) -- Responding to claims of Sun Microsystems Inc. in U.S. District Court, Microsoft Corp. today filed a countersuit of its own, charging Sun with breach of contract related to its licensing of Sun's Java programming language.

Microsoft has countersued Sun for breach of contract, breach of "the covenant of good faith and fair dealing," and unfair competition for Sun's "repeated failure to live up to its obligations under the two companies' agreement," according to a Microsoft statement.

"Sun has apparently decided that it no longer likes the deal it made more than a year and a half ago," said Tom Burt, associate general counsel for Microsoft Corp., in a statement today.

Microsoft's countersuit outlines breaches of contract by Sun, according to the Microsoft statement. The countersuit specifies that, contrary to the agreement between the two companies, Sun failed to deliver technology that passes Sun's own test suites and has failed to provide a public set of test suites, according to the statement.

Sun also has "consistently failed in its obligation to treat Microsoft on an equal footing with all other licensees," according to the Microsoft statement.

In addition, the Microsoft suit charges Sun with unfair business practices for Sun's "repeated false statements about the compatibility and desirability of Microsoft's products and Microsoft's rights under the agreement."

Microsoft and Sun have been in a war of words over Java since well before Oct. 7, when Sun announced its lawsuit charging Microsoft with breach of contract regarding Java licensing. Sun claimed that Microsoft's implementation of Java in its Internet Explorer 4.0 Web browser did not meet the terms of the license requirements, among other charges.

The crux of Microsoft's countersuit today is that Explorer does in fact meet the terms of the licensing requirements, and passes the suite of tests delivered to Microsoft by Sun, according to Cornelius Willis, director of platform marketing for Microsoft.

"Sun is making false statements that interfere with our business," said Willis. "They are saying that Windows Internet Explorer technology does not pass the required tests when in fact it does," Willis said.

Third parties cannot judge for themselves whether or not the Microsoft Java-based technology passes the Sun suites since the tests are not publicly available, said Willis. Microsoft itself can't make the tests available to the public because, he said, "They are Sun's intellectual property."

In addition, Sun has failed to deliver versions of Java that are compatible with earlier versions, as it is contractually obligated to do, Willis said.

"Java compatibility is a nightmare," Willis said.

Despite all the rhetoric and the lawsuits, however, Willis did not completely close the door on a settlement.

"I wouldn't say never [to a settlement]... but we are looking forward to our day in court," Willis said.

The next step, in the legal dispute, is for a judge to be assigned to the case and hearing dates to be set, said Willis.

As Sun CEO and Chairman Scott McNealy met with company executives, the company declined to comment immediately on the Microsoft claims.