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Microsoft claims small victory in Sun legal battle

SEATTLE, April 6 (Reuters) - Software giant Microsoft Corp. (NasdaqNM:MSFT - news) on Thursday said it had scored a small victory in its legal battle with archrival Sun Microsystems Inc. (NasdaqNM:SUNW - news) over its license for a computer programming technology developed by Sun.

In a ruling issued late on Wednesday, Judge Ronald Whyte of the U.S. District Court in San Jose, Calif., rejected Sun's interpretation of its contract with Microsoft concerning updated versions of its Java technology.

Microsoft spokesman Jim Cullinan said the pretrial ruling confirmed a tentative decision on the issue made by Whyte last June. A spokesman for Sun could not immediately be reached for comment.

Wednesday's ruling knocked back a motion by Sun that it did not have to supply Microsoft with Java upgrades that are compatible with Microsoft's currently available software.

The case, filed in 1997 by Sun, a maker of powerful server computers and software, alleges Microsoft violated a licensing agreement for Java, a ``write once, run anywhere'' programming language that lets software run on a variety of operating systems.

Sun says Microsoft, fearing Java threatened its dominance in PC operating systems, ``polluted'' Java by creating a version that could only run on its Windows platform, thus undermining its appeal as a crossover technology.

A trial date for the case has not yet been set.

The Wednesday ruling, though minor and not unexpected, came as some relief to Microsoft, which on Monday was found by a federal judge to have broken U.S. antitrust laws in a case filed by the Justice Department.

``We are happy with any win in the court system this week,'' Cullinan said in a statement e-mailed to reporters.

Shares in Microsoft fell 3/8 to 86 while those in Sun rose 3-15/16 to 92-11/16 in trading on the Nasdaq on Thursday.


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