Bristol's Microsoft antitrust suit cranks on
Lawsuits? Sure, we got lawsuits...
With Microsoft's "A" team of lawyers busy in Washington, a "B" team was equally pressed in Bridgeport, Connecticut where Bristol Technology is seeking a preliminary injunction against Microsoft for, allegedly, abusing its operating system monopoly by indulging in anticompetitive behaviour, manipulating the Windows APIs, and violating the Sherman Antitrust Act. During the hearing, Bristol said that its survival is threatened by Microsoft's unwillingness to license NT code on reasonable terms. Jean Blackwell said that "My entire business is at stake" and that Bristol had failed to close deals with Silicon Graphics and other customers as a result of Microsoft's intransigence. The present hearing is in response to Bristol's request for a preliminary injunction for it to have continuing access to NT code. Microsoft is maintaining that the case concerns a contract dispute, and that Bristol is just trying to get better terms by bringing the case. The three-year contract for part of Windows NT code expired in 1995, and Microsoft is seeking a 400 per cent increase in the licensing fee, and claims that Mainsoft has accepted essentially the same terms. Bristol has come against a change of mind by Microsoft over licensing NT code, particularly as Microsoft now sees Bristol as encouraging competition for NT with Unix, since Bristol's Wind/U tool allows applications to run on both NT and Unix - something Microsoft does not now want. The preliminary hearing has stretched to four days. Bristol produced Professor Richard Langlois of the University of Connecticut as an expert witness. He said that Microsoft is well on the way to having a monopoly in the OS market. Bristol has won access to all Microsoft documents in the DoJ, Sun, and Caldera cases. Microsoft had fought this, and having lost is now claiming that the access to such documents is "standard procedure in these kinds of cases . . . for discovery purposes, not for evidence." Bristol said that documents had been admitted as evidence for its case, flatly contradicting Microsoft's claim. Bristol's counsel Pat Lynch said that the matter was not primarily a contractual dispute, and that Microsoft is talking out of both sides of its mouth, having referenced the Bristol case in Sun v Microsoft, and now referenced the Sun case in Bristol's case. Microsoft produced Professor Richard Schmalansee from MIT, who gave an opinion that there would be continued head-to-head competition between Unix and Windows. He also noted that Wind/U's customers wrote only $100 million of software over the last two years, which was minuscule compared with the $45 billion of worldwide Unix software application sales in 1996 and 1997. It would be interesting to know how he came to this figure, which seems to be very high. He also suggested that the disappearance of Bristol's product - and by implication Bristol - would have no significant impact on the competition between Unix and NT. It is interesting that he should introduce the argument of Bristol's size and influence: is he seriously suggesting that "might is right"? Bristol maintains that Microsoft used the NT licensing programme as a Trojan horse to entice Unix developers to NT through tools like Wind/U. Bristol also said that Microsoft was demanding that it must receive royalties on the licensing of each developer's kit. The next stages are for the two sides to submit general synopses to the court. A ruling on a temporary injunction is now expected next week, as well as a decision as to whether the matter will proceed to a full trial. ® Complete Register trial coverage Click for more stories
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