Microsoft does not need to carry Sun's Java support

Out-Law News | 30 Jun 2003 | 12:00 am | 1 min. read

A US appeals court has dismissed a lower court's order that required Microsoft to carry Sun's Java Virtual Machine (JVM) on Windows but upheld another part of the judgment that requires Microsoft to stop distributing certain copies of its own rival version of the software.

The Java programming language, developed by Sun in 1995, is popular with internet-based applications because it allows programmers to develop applications compatible with many types of computers, regardless of the platform on which they run. But a computer needs a JVM to run programs that are written in Java.

The dispute began when Microsoft decided to drop Sun's JVM from its Windows XP product. Sun sued, claiming that Microsoft had also forced developers to distribute products incompatible with Java. As a result, according to Sun, developers turned to Microsoft's .Net platform.

Together with the lawsuit, Sun asked the court to issue a temporary order requiring Microsoft to ship JVM with each copy of Windows XP and Internet Explorer. Sun argued that, if it waited until the case was heard, it would be left far behind in the competition.

The court granted the order two days before Christmas, reasoning that Microsoft had gained an unfair advantage. Microsoft appealed the order and, in February this year, a federal appeals court agreed to temporarily suspend the order, until the appeal itself was heard.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia ruled on Thursday that Microsoft will not have to continue supporting Sun's JVM. Microsoft can continue distributing its own JVM in Windows – but the court said that to offer it separately through computer makers or through other channels as a stand-alone product would breach the terms of a 2001 licensing agreement with Sun.

Last week's ruling dealt with injunctions; it is by no means that final word on the case, which could still go to trial.

Microsoft had also filed counterclaims alleging that Sun had violated a settlement reached in 2001 between the two companies over Java.