Sun offers new J2EE licensing plan

Earlier this week, Sun Microsystems Inc. introduced a new licensing and royalty plan for its Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) 1.3 specification aimed at eliminating some of the public squabbling that has erupted in the past over fees.

Although Palo Alto, Calif.-based Sun refused to disclose financial terms, the new licensing policy calls for a per-year cap on royalties and fees that each licensee must pay Sun for access to the Java source code.

Each of the 22 current J2EE 1.2 licensees separately negotiated fees with Sun. Sun’s standard J2EE contract calls for application server licensees to pay fees equal to three per cent of net sales, but when vendors balked at the flat-fee approach, most of them negotiated separate licensing contracts.

Sun hopes to curb that backlash with the new price-ceiling structure, said Rick Saletta, marketing team leader for J2EE.

Carl Zetie, an analyst at Giga Information Group Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., said Sun’s amended policy should quell some of the negative response to J2EE license fees that emerged in the past, but Sun still needs to do more to share control over the specification process with other vendors, he added.

“Sun is not obliged to take these recommendations,” said Zetie. “But the whole purpose is to arrive at an acceptable set of licensing terms without having a publicly acrimonious debate about it. Having that debate conducted in the press is not good for Java.”

Members of the Java Committee Process executive committee, which comprises 15 software vendors, including Sun, IBM, BEA Systems Inc. and Oracle Corp., have two weeks to review the terms and submit comments to Sun. The vendors are also under a gag order from Sun not to discuss specific licensee terms until the conclusion of the committee review process.