In a private antitrust lawsuit filed in federal court this week, Sun Microsystems is seeking more than $US1 billion in damages from Microsoft, as well as a preliminary injunction forcing the software giant to include Sun's Java Virtual Machine (JVM) in the Windows XP operating system.
The lawsuit "seeks to restrain Microsoft's anti-competitive behaviour and remedy the damage that has resulted from Microsoft's illegal monopoly," Michael Morris, Sun's general counsel, said in a recent conference call with the news media and analysts.
The lawsuit asks the court to force Microsoft to distribute JVMs with Windows XP and Internet Explorer 6.0 instead of requiring users to download a JVM. It also would force Microsoft to disclose proprietary interfaces and unbundle "tied" products such as Explorer and .Net The suit, which was filed in the US District Court in San Jose, seeks damages that will likely be "north of a billion" dollars, said Morris.
After the Sun announcement, Microsoft spokesman Jim Desler said, "there is no legal or factual basis for this lawsuit".
"Millions of consumers who use Windows also use Java technology every day," said Desler. "It's time to move past these issues, many of which appear to be related [to] the lawsuit that the parties settled last year."
Microsoft paid Sun $20 million last year to settle a copyright infringement lawsuit over its Java implementation.
Randy Heffner, an analyst at Giga Information Group in Cambridge, Massachussets, said the lawsuit could hurt Sun. The litigation may wind up being as much of a distraction to Sun as the ongoing federal anti-trust case has been to Microsoft, "and Sun is working from a weakened position in the market," he explained.
He said the lawsuit will help competitors such as IBM.
In filing the lawsuit, Sun will be armed with the decision last year by the US Court of Appeals that found Microsoft used anti-competitive means to get developers to use its implementation of Java. But the Appeals Court didn't find that Microsoft's version of Java was illegal.
Other companies have filed private anti-trust cases against Microsoft, including Netscape Communications and former operating systems vendor Be in Menlo Park, California. They are also using the federal ruling on which to build their private claims. Sun, as with Netscape, is seeking to expand on the federal ruling.
In particular, Sun is charging that Microsoft illegally attempted to monopolise the worker group server operating market and also illegally tied its browser to the Windows operating system -- a charge that the US case ultimately dropped after the appeals court ruling.
Roy Harper, lead software engineer at Food Services of America, a Seattle-based food supplier, said the suit is something he will watch very carefully because its impact could be huge if Sun comes out of the lawsuit in a weakened position.
"This could turn out real bad in the Java world," said Harper. "But my expectation is that Microsoft ... is going to have to knock under and play nice."