Judge: Microsoft Must Pay Damages

Friday, September 1st 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) — A federal judge has ordered software giant Microsoft Corp. to pay $1 million in punitive damages to Danbury-based Bristol Technology Inc. for deceiving the small company during a dispute over a license to the Windows NT operating system.

A federal jury in July 1999 found that Microsoft committed a deceptive act that violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act, but awarded Bristol just $1 on that claim.

Bristol then asked U.S. District Court Judge Janet C. Hall to award punitive damages, which she did Thursday.

``The deceptive conduct engaged in by Microsoft clearly rises to the level of reckless and wanton indifference to the harm it caused Bristol and others, including independent software vendors,'' Hall wrote in her 103-page decision.

But the judge said a $1 million penalty against a company like Microsoft, which had $14.5 billion in revenue last year, probably was not sufficient to fully deter Microsoft from similar conduct in the future.

Microsoft officials said they planned to appeal Hall's ruling.

The judge is still deciding on Bristol's request for $6 million in legal fees.

Bristol sued Microsoft in August 1996, claiming the industry leader was trying to crush competition by preventing access to the source code, or software blueprints, for Windows NT.

Bristol makes a software product called Wind/U, which allows programs written specifically for Windows to be converted to run on computers with competing operating systems such as UNIX.

From 1994 to 1997, the two companies had a contract under which Microsoft provided Bristol access to source code for an earlier version of Windows NT. Bristol filed its lawsuit after they were unable to reach an agreement on a contract for the newest versions.

Hall also ruled that Microsoft chairman Bill Gates gave an intentionally false statement during a 1996 speech in which he assured other software companies and customers that Microsoft would continue to provide its latest products for conversion to UNIX programs.