According to both Microsoft Corp and Hewlett-Packard Co, the primary motive behind Apple Computer Inc’s lawsuit on the user interface copyright issue is an attempt to slow down the increasingly serious competition to what is seen as Apple’s strongest technological advantage. Cupertino, California-based Apple’s monetary claim of $50,000 per infringement is seen as relatively insignificant beside the threat that all copies of Hewlett’s NewWave, Microsoft’s Windows Release 2.3, and all products based around them could be ordered destroyed if the suit was successful – an outcome that neither of the defendants will contemplate. Apple filed its original complaint on St Patrick’s Day, March 17, giving Microsoft and Hewlett 20 days to respond formally to the US courts, or to ask for an extension. Whilst Hewlett opted to apply for a further 60 days extension before its official response, Microsoft was quick to file its own counterclaims against Apple, with the allegation that the contracts between the two companies have been violated, that the suit has interfered with existing contracts between Microsoft and its customers, and that Apple’s aggressive publicity surrounding the suit has damaged Microsoft. But although the action is likely to give some pause to software developers committing themselves to the disputed products (and even to future products that may be affected, such as IBM’s Presentation Manager), Hewlett reports that interest in its NewWave interface has never been higher since its launch in November. The lawsuit has not slowed down the momentum of NewWave: if anything it has accelerated it, said Robert Frankenberg, General Manager of Hewlett’s Information Systems Group, also in Cupertino. We have sold well over 100 development kits, and the take-up rate has more than doubled since the suit began – a large percentage from other computer vendors looking to include NewWave with their products. Volume shipments began two weeks late at the end of March, but the delay was not connected to the lawsuit, said Frankenberg. Initially an MS-DOS-based product, NewWave will come out in versions for OS/2, Presentation Manager, and Unix (including conformance with X Window). Frankenberg maintains that Apple is excited and concerned about NewWave’s technology, specifically the object management approach and easy integration of third party products within NewWave, and says there is no meat to their allegations – although he does admit that Apple has not yet been specific about the alleged infringements involved, and those could be anywhere within seven or eight tapes. Cases such as this typically take at least a year to reach court, though Frankenberg feels that an out-of-court settlement is the most likely outcome. And Microsoft alleges that a similar charge of copyright infringement against it by Apple was dropped in 1986, following a response from Microsoft lawyers. One option open to Apple that it has not as yet taken up, is a preliminary conjunction, freezing sales of the product in dispute, a fairly common practice in copyright cases. Microsoft’s counter-suit asks the court to assess damages for the slander of Microsoft’s title to its Windows product, and for the re-instatement of its 1985 licence agreement with Apple, and Hewlett-Packard’s Frankenberg agreed that his company could also countersue for loss of sales. Xerox Corp Meanwhile Xerox Corp, justifiably widely credited as the source of many of the user interface characteristics now associated with Apple, has already licensed both Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard for the use of its Smalltalk object oriented language, and with the agreement to licence the Xerox look and feel to Sun for AT&T’s Open Look looks set to flex its muscles once again towards graphical interfaces, after years of maintaining a relatively low profile with ViewPoint on its own workstations. Although Xerox spokesman Terry Dillman said that the company would not comment on litigation in which it was not involved, he added that if other manufacturers want to license the Xerox look and f
eel, just as Sun has done, they are open to come and talk.