Judge Whyte "Clarifies" Preliminary Injunction in Java Suit

(February 21, 1999) U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Whyte issued an order on Friday, February 19 clarifying his preliminary injunction order of November 17, 1998 in Sun Microsystems' Java suit against Microsoft.

Related Pages

Summary of Sun Microsystems v. Microsoft, U.S. District Court, N.D.Cal., San Jose, Case No. 97-CV-20884.
Preliminary Injunction Order, 11/17/98.
Order Clarifying Preliminary Injunction, 2/19/99.

Judge Whyte wrote in his clarifying order that the preliminary injunction issued on November 17, 1998, "does not restrict Microsoft's distribution of any Java technology that makes no use of and is not derived from any of Sun's copyrighted material." However, Judge Whyte left open for future decision whether Microsoft may distribute non-compliant, independently developed Java products. Microsoft and Sun are at odds over this question.

Sun Microsystems filed its lawsuit against Microsoft in October of 1997 alleging that Microsoft violated their 1996 licensing agreement. Microsoft had labeled and promoted its MSIE 4.0 and Java development software as Java Compatible. Sun asserted that Microsoft's Java products failed its compatibility tests, and were thus in violation of the agreement.

Related Stories

Judge Enjoins Microsoft in Java Suit, 3/25/98.
Sun Seeks Injunction of Windows 98, 5/13/98.
Judge Issues Preliminary Injunction, 11/18/98.
Microsoft Files Appeal Brief, 1/17/99.

Judge Whyte's November 17 preliminary injunction was broad and detailed. Among other things, it enjoined Microsoft from "Selling or distributing, directly or indirectly, any operating system or browser product containing or implementing computer program code copied or derived from any Sun copyrighted program code for the Java Technology ... unless such product includes a Java runtime implementation which supports Sun's JNI in a manner which passes the compatibility test suite accompanying the latest version of the Java Technology contained in, implemented by, or emulated by such product." Judge Whyte similarly enjoined sale of any "software development tool" which fails Sun's compatibility tests.

Microsoft's motion for clarification, and this order, dealt with part H of the November 17 preliminary injunction, which enjoined Microsoft from:

"Incorporating any additional Microsoft keyword extensions or compiler directives into its Java software development tools."

Microsoft argued that this section H could be read to restrain Microsoft from distributing any non-compliant Java software development tool or compiler regardless of whether such development tool or compiler infringes Sun's copyrights in its Java technology.

Judge Whyte's February 19 order was a clarification to the extent that he ruled that the November 17 order did not address whether Microsoft may distribute non-compliant, independently developed Java products. However, it did not resolve the dispute. Presumably, Judge Whyte will rule on this issue at a later date.

Judge Whyte heard oral argument on February 5, 1999. He ruled on February 19, 1999. Also, Microsoft has appealed the November 17 preliminary injunction order to the Court of Appeals.

Excerpt from February 19 Order

In light of the foregoing, the court hereby clarifies that the Preliminary Injunction is not intended to restrict Microsoft's distribution of any operating system, browser product, compiler, or software development tool, that does not incorporate computer program code copied or derived from any Sun copyrighted program code or documentation for the Java Technology as that term is defined in the TLDA. See TLDA 1.25 and Exhibit A.

Nothing in this order of clarification, however, should be construed as authorizing Microsoft to sell or distribute any product which infringes any of Sun's copyrights or other intellectual property rights in the Java technology or in any way violates the TLDA. The court expresses no opinion at this time on Sun's claim that distribution of an independently developed Java compiler would violate the TLDA. Further, nothing in this order is intended to suggest whether any product Microsoft may develop and attempt to distribute will constitute an independently developed product.

The court recognizes that this order leaves unresolved the parties' dispute as to what rights, if any, Microsoft has to distribute independently developed, non-compliant Java technology under the TLDA. This order is without prejudice to an application by Sun to restrain Microsoft from distributing an independently developed, non-compliant product, if Sun believes that such distribution would violate the TLDA and that the requirements for such an injunction could be met.