U.S. judge orders Microsoft to pay legal fees to software maker

Microsoft Corp. must pay software maker Bristol Technology Inc. US$3.7 million in legal fees in addition to the $1 million it was ordered to pay the Danbury, Conn., company in September for unfair trade practices, a federal judge ruled Monday.

Bristol Technology had sought $6 million in legal fees in the case, which was filed in August 1998 and alleged that Microsoft injured Bristol and the rest of the software industry through predatory manipulation of the access to Windows programming interfaces.

“We are very happy,” said Keith Blackwell, Bristol’s CEO. “We would have liked the whole thing. It was up to her (the judge) to break things down in a fair manner and that’s what she did.”

Microsoft spokesman Jim Cullinan said the Redmond, Wash.-based company was reviewing its options in the case and stressed that it believed a jury’s earlier ruling in the case favoring Microsoft was the right one.

A jury in July 1999 found that Microsoft had not violated any antitrust laws, but had violated Connecticut’s Unfair Trade Practices Act. Bristol Technology had sought $263 million in damages during its closing statements of the trial, but the jury awarded damages totalling only $1. In September, however, Federal District Judge Janet C. Hall, who also delivered Monday’s ruling, ended up ordering that Microsoft pay $1 million in punitive damages.

Bristol, during the trial, contended the expiration of its licensing contract of Windows NT source code in September 1997 drastically reduced sales. Bristol sells cross-platform development products that allow Windows applications to run on other operating systems. Its key product, WIND/U. lets companies port applications from Windows to Unix.

Bristol has contended that Microsoft let the contract lapse to discourage use of the Unix operating system, which rivals Microsoft’s Window’s NT. Microsoft, however, has stated that a contract dispute occurred with Bristol over the license.

Blackwell said Bristol, a 90-employee software company, will now enter a motion to throw out the jury’s ruling from July 1999 and seek a new trial on antitrust claims in the U.S. District Court in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

“We are saying the jury erred, and given the evidence presented to the jury, they could not have found as they did,” Blackwell said.

Bristol Technology can be reached at http://www.bristol.com. Microsoft can be reached at http://www.microsoft.com/.