Microsoft Will Pay Bristol Technology To Settle Suit - InformationWeek

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Microsoft Will Pay Bristol Technology To Settle Suit

Microsoft agreed to pay Bristol Technology Inc. an undisclosed sum Wednesday to settle a lawsuit over unfair trade practices. It's the latest settlement Microsoft has reached to clear legal issues off its docket.

Bristol, based in Danbury, Conn., brought its case against Microsoft in August 1998, claiming Microsoft had violated antitrust and fair-trade laws through its licensing terms for Windows NT. Bristol's flagship product is Wind/U, software for porting Windows apps to Unix. When Microsoft was trying to gain market share with Windows NT, Wind/U let developers write to the new system with confidence they could move those apps to Unix servers. Bristol said Microsoft raised licensing fees for the Windows source code when its position became stronger.

Bristol lost the antitrust portion of the trial in July 1999, but nominally won its claim that Microsoft violated Connecticut's unfair-business laws. In September, a U.S. District Court judge ordered Microsoft to pay Bristol $1 million in punitive damages and in November ordered the vendor to pay Bristol $3.7 million in legal fees. Microsoft had planned to appeal the judgment before Wednesday's settlement.

"We've always believed that if there's a reasonable solution to an issue, rather than litigation, we'd always agree to do that," says a Microsoft spokesman. Last month, Microsoft agreed to pay Sun Microsystems $20 million to settle a legal dispute over licensing of the Java programming language. In December, Microsoft settled a lawsuit brought by temporary workers for the company.

Terms of the Bristol settlement dismiss all previous damage payment orders issued by the courts, Microsoft's spokesman says. Microsoft won't, however, settle suits on "unreasonable terms," he adds--the company is winning dismissals of some class-action suits that stemmed from the landmark antitrust case brought by the U.S. government.

Bristol said it's pleased with the settlement. "We just want to move on with our business," says a spokeswoman. "It was the right thing, we've proved our point, and we're better as a result of it." In an interview last fall, Bristol CEO Keith Blackwell said independent software vendors can "never win" against Microsoft in the market, because the company is a competitor and "they make the rules." "Microsoft's the referee as well for the platform," he added. Privately held Bristol was on track to net just under $10 million in revenue last year.

Shares of Microsoft (MSFT-Nasdaq) were up $1.375, to $57.25, in early-afternoon trading.

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