Sun, Microsoft make Java license public

Microsoft accuses Sun of trying to suppress the agreement; Sun calls that a lie

By Nancy Weil, IDG News Service, Boston Bureau

October  1997
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Boston (October 15, 1997) -- Microsoft Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. today posted their disputed Java licensing agreement on their respective Web sites (see sidebar below), where the technology giants also traded barbs in the latest round of their ongoing dispute.

Sun yesterday also filed an amended complaint to its lawsuit against Microsoft. Sun is seeking $35 million in damages for Microsoft's alleged illegal distribution of the Sun source code in the beta version of the Microsoft Software Development Kit for Java. The damage amount was specified in the licensing agreement in the event that Sun alleged a violation.

Sun contends that Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser and the development kit are not fully Java-compatible, which violates the licensing agreement signed in March 1996.

The original lawsuit was filed last week and alleges trademark infringement, false advertising, breach of contract, unfair competition, interference with prospective economic advantage and inducing breach of contract.

Microsoft's Web site suggests that Sun sought to keep the Java licensing agreement secret, while Microsoft wanted it to be made public.

"That's an absolute lie," said John Loiacono, director of marketing strategy and branding at Sun. Both companies agreed to keep the agreement confidential, so Sun filed it in court as a sealed document, he said. Since the lawsuit was filed, both companies agreed to make it public and specified today as the date for doing so, he said.

Microsoft did not return a phone call seeking comment, but the Microsoft Web site says the company asked Sun to unseal the document. Sun, according to the Microsoft Web site, "selectively revealed and paraphrased parts of the agreement" in its lawsuit.

"Given that Sun has been attempting to argue the case in the court of public opinion, it was important to make sure that the entire contract was revealed, not just the individual sections that Sun has already disclosed," the Microsoft Web site says under a question-and-answer section regarding the licensing agreement.

The Sun Web site suggests that Netscape Navigator, a browser that has more marketshare than Internet Explorer 4.0, is "the best choice for end users who want to be sure they can always run Java."

The text of the amended complaint, the licensing agreement and other information about the ongoing dispute with Microsoft may be obtained on Sun's Web site at Microsoft's statements regarding the dispute and a copy of the licensing agreement are also available on its Web site at

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The Agreements According to the Vendors

Below are the question-and-answer sections posted on the Microsoft Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. Web sites today regarding their ongoing legal dispute over the Java licensing agreement. They have been edited for length.

Microsoft: Questions and Answers About the Agreement
The Java licensing Agreement between Microsoft and Sun is now public. We know it's been difficult and perhaps frustrating to try and sort through the various statements and claims made by both companies in this dispute. Now that the contract is public, we encourage you to read it.

Q. Why did Microsoft push to make the Agreement public?

Sun filed the Agreement under seal with the court so that the public would not have access. Microsoft asked Sun to unseal the Agreement. Sun has said many things, both to the press and in its Complaint about the Agreement and what it claims are Microsoft's obligations under the Agreement. In the Complaint, Sun selectively revealed and paraphrased parts of the Agreement. Given that Sun has been attempting to argue this case in the court of public opinion, it was important to make sure that the entire contract was revealed, not just the individual sections that Sun has already disclosed.

Q. During Sun's conference call announcing the Complaint, Alan Baratz said, "Microsoft is not the reference implementation for Java on Windows or on any other platform." What does the Agreement say?

The phase "Reference Implementation" appears dozens of times in the contract. Section 1.10 defines the Reference Implementation.

The joint press release from Sun and Microsoft that announced Microsoft's licensing of Java on March 12, 1996, and the release announcing the incorporation of Java as a feature of Windows on April 30, 1996 also highlights this fact.

Q. Is Microsoft required to ship JNI?

There is no provision in the contract that requires Microsoft to ship JNI. We have chosen not to ship JNI because it is redundant with and inferior to features already supplied in Microsoft's virtual machine.

Q. Is Microsoft required to ship RMI?

RMI is not an issue as it was posted on Microsoft's web site at the same time Internet Explorer 4.0 was released.

Q. Can Microsoft make changes to the licensed technology?

Section 2.1(a) describes Microsoft's irrevocable rights to modify and adapt the licensed technology. Section 2.8(d) only restricts changes to the names of certain public classes; it does not affect Microsoft's right to add methods and fields to Java classes.

Q: Does the Agreement provide for injunctive relief?

Section 11.2(d) limits Sun to monetary damages.

Sun Microsystems Takes Legal Action Against Microsoft
Java stands for cross-platform compatibility. Its ability to unite disparate systems has made it one of the computer industry's most widely adopted innovations, licensed to 117 companies and already used by more than 700,000 software developers around the world.

Only one of those licensees -- Microsoft -- has attempted to undermine that quality. Our goal is simple: Bring Microsoft back into compliance with Java standards. Period.

In the meantime, users of Microsoft Windows can continue to access Java applications by using Netscape Navigator. Java applications will run within Netscape's browser without modification.

Many Java applications will run within Microsoft's Internet Explorer 4.0 without modification. But since Microsoft omitted two key Java components from IE 4.0, some Java applications may need slight modifications to run within that browser.

While the burden of these modifications falls on developers, the ease of deployment characteristics of Java computing are not compromised. The IE 4.0 user can be totally insulated from these modifications. To ensure complete interoperability with IE 4.0, developers should note the workarounds explained in the Q&A below.

Q: Has Sun revoked Microsoft's license to use Java?

A: Sun has sued Microsoft for breaching its contractual obligation to deliver a complete, fully-compatible implementation of Java on its products. Sun is seeking an injunction to prevent Microsoft from using the Java Compatible logo. Sun is seeking to prevent Microsoft from misleading Java developers, and to prevent them from delivering anything but fully compatible Java technology implementations. To be very clear, this action does not seek to revoke Microsoft's license. Our goal is for Microsoft to fulfill the obligations created in the licensing agreement.

Q: How did Microsoft breach their agreement?

A: Microsoft delivered a product that did not pass the Java compatibility tests. Their license with Sun is very specific that no product containing any Java technologies may be shipped without first passing the Java compatibility tests. Microsoft's Internet Explorer 4.0 does not pass the tests.

Q: What functions are provided by the Java components Microsoft has omitted from Internet Explorer 4.0 and their development kit?

A: The Remote Method Interface, RMI, allows parts of a Java program running on different computers to communicate with one another. The Java Native method Interface, JNI, allows Java programs to run programs written in other languages such as C or C++. Many but not all of the functions of RMI can be achieved using JavaIDL. Sun recommends using JavaIDL until a means for providing RMI on Windows and IE 4.0 is available. Applications that use native methods must use JNI for all platforms except Internet Explorer. IE applications must use RNI, Microsoft's variant of JNI.

Q: Is Java fragmenting?

A: There is only one Java. It is the platform that Sun and its other 116 licensees provide to the industry, the platform that more than 700,000 developers are using to build applications, the platform that delivers a unique value proposition: Write once, run anywhere. Safe network delivery. Smart card to supercomputer scalability.

Only one of Sun's 116 Java licensees is seeking to deliberately undermine that value proposition and to confuse developers. That company is Microsoft.

Q: Is Netscape any more compliant than Microsoft?

A: Netscape has been very clear with developers about their level of Java compatibility. Netscape does not misrepresent their status to developers, nor do they attempt to confuse them. And Netscape has a stated, demonstrated commitment to delivering fully compliant Java implementations within their products.

Q: How is Microsoft's behavior different from that of other Java licensees?

A: Microsoft has deliberately modified the Java platform by inserting Microsoft methods disguised as Java methods within the hierarchy. Because Microsoft has deliberately mislabeled the methods, software developers using these methods may be deceived into believing that they have written 100% Pure Java applications.

Microsoft has repeatedly claimed that Java cannot deliver "Write Once, Run Anywhere" capabilities. They have attempted to fulfill this claim by inserting their own technology within their Java implementation.

Q: How will Windows users get Java now?

A: Netscape Navigator is the best choice for end users who want to be sure they can always run Java.

For developers, Sun offers the Java Performance Runtime for Windows, a high-performance implementation of what's required to run Java applications on Win 32 platforms. Free of charge to developers, it is available for download from Sun's Web site.

Developers also have access to Java implementations for Windows via the industry's leading tools, including Symantec's Visual Cafe, IBM's Visual Age, Borland's Latte, and Sun's own Java WorkShop.

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