Microsoft, Bristol Settle Lawsuit

It’s not the big one, but Microsoft has at least managed to settle one of the lawsuits hanging over its head.

Microsoft Corp. and Danbury, Conn.-based Bristol Technology announced Wednesday that they have ended the legal wrangling that began in August 1998, when Bristol filed an antitrust suit against Redmond and claimed violations of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUPTA). The trial was held in June-July 1999.

Terms of the settlement were not disclosed, but last year, a judge ordered Microsoft to pay Bristol nearly $5 million, including $1 million in punitive damages, and $3.7 million in legal fees, for its violations.

Bristol’s primary complaint against Microsoft was that Redmond had licensed some of the Windows source code to Bristol in the early 90s, then reneged on the deal. “After initially approaching Bristol in 1991 and creating a dependency for Bristol and its customers on the Windows programming interfaces, Microsoft is now seeking to end access to this technology on all but Windows operating systems. Microsoft is doing so by refusing to provide Bristol with current and future Windows source code, and offering only a license that Microsoft knows is oppressive, unworkable and unreasonable,” Bristol said in a release at the time it filed the suit in 1998.

A jury partially agreed, dismissing the antitrust claims against Microsoft, but did find in favor of Bristol on one claim under CUPTA.

Ironically, Bristol says it has a better relationship with Microsoft now than it had prior to the lawsuit. “We continue to partner with Microsoft,” says Jean Blackwell, vice president of sales for Bristol. “We license [Windows] source code and include it in our products, and we continue to do business with each other when it benefits both companies.”

“As a company, Bristol is much stronger as a result of the lawsuit than when we started. The best outcome in the end was the settlement,” Blackwell says.

Bristol makes products that allow developers to work across platforms. For instance, its Wind/U product allows developers to port Windows applications to Unix. Other platforms include Compaq’s OpenVMS, Linux, and IBM’s OS/390. Since the latest version of Wind/U, released last October, does include Windows 2000 source code, the companies may have been close to a resolution then.

Microsoft was not available to comment, but a press release on its Web site states that it is happy to have the litigation in the past, and claims it did nothing wrong. – Keith Ward

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.