Judge Ronald Whyte tentatively ruled Tuesday that the Java code Microsoft used in its Internet Explorer 4.0 Web browser and Windows 98 infringed on Sun Microsystem's Java copyright. But the judge also ruled that Microsoft was free to develop Java-related software that doesn't rely on Sun's intellectual property. The tentative rulings, which come a month before Microsoft and Sun will make oral arguments in the case, are non-binding. The judge will decide whether to change his preliminary ruling based on the arguments he'll hear beginning June 24.
The good news for Microsoft, apparently, is that it can create "independently developed" software tools (such as Visual J++, presumably) that do not violate any Sun copyright, patent, or other intellectual property. This could well mean that Microsoft continues development of its Java tools, whose future is still uncertain