Microsoft has spent $125 million (£77 million) to settle a long-standing patent infringement squabble with its troubled former adversary Inprise.
The deal is also intended to ensure that Inprise's Borland development tool kit will be ready for Windows 2000.
Microsoft announced last week that it would take a 10% stake worth $25 million (£15 million) in Inprise and pay it $100 million (£62 million) in a cross-licensing deal.
Microsoft would not list which of its technologies would be licensed.
"We are not releasing details of the cross-licensing deal," Richard Hamblen, newly appointed development tools marketing manager at Microsoft UK, told PC Week. "(But Microsoft is) making sure there is no confusion or ambiguities with licensing issues."
But Gidi Schmidt, European vice president of Inprise, told PC Week that the patents covered in the deal were Microsoft's Excel spreadsheet, SQL database, Windows operating system and visual studio and development tools.
In 1997, Inprise (then called Borland) accused Microsoft in a lawsuit of poaching more than 30 staff members from its tools department, with the intent of killing off a competitor. Microsoft settled the lawsuit later that year.
It was possible, Hamblen said, that some workers who jumped the Borland ship for Microsoft could have accidentally included some Borland technology in Microsoft products. Hamblen said the licensing deal could be retrospective, removing any danger of Inprise suing Microsoft for patent infringements based on technology from the ex-Borland workers.
"I have to be honest, these licensing deals look backwards as well as forwards," he admitted.
Gartner Group's analyst arm Dataquest dismissed a statement in Microsoft's announcement of the deal that said it needed to take an equity stake in Inprise to ensure that the Borland toolkits would be ready for Windows 2000.
"It is inevitable that Inprise would build these products to support the Microsoft platform," said Arthur Hochberg, principal analyst at Dataquest.
Hochberg extended three feasible alternative motives for the Microsoft investment:
- The equity stake was part of the settlement of the long-standing legal issues.
- From an anti-competitive standpoint, Microsoft does not want to be seen as the only product in the market, so it extended a lifeline to Inprise, as it did in the past to Apple.
- Microsoft feared Inprise could be taken over by a strong competitor, such as Sun.
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