Bristol: It's payback time

Bristol Technology Inc., the porting-tool vendor embroiled in an antritrust suit against Microsoft Corp., Monday announced it is seeking a damage award of $130 million to $263 million.

To date, Bristol had not made public the result of its calculation of lost business and reputation for which it is seeking remuneration if it is victorious in the case it launched against Microsoft last August. Bristol is suing Microsoft for allegedly monopolistic business practices around the licensing of Windows NT and related application programming interfaces.

Microsoft is calling Bristol's damage request "large." Yet comparatively, Bristol's damages figure is dwarfed by the $1.6bn (£1bn) damages claim sought by Caldera Inc., another company suing Microsoft for antitrust violations. Caldera's case goes to trial next January.

According to Bristol, the higher $263m figure incorporates the loss of potential OEM bundling deals resulting from its inability to renew its NT source code license with Microsoft. Bristol witness and financial forensic expert Henry Stotsenberg cited the damage estimate during his court appearance Monday. But Microsoft corporate spokesman Tom Pilla questions Bristol's maths. "They've never had an OEM deal," Pilla says. "And their claims can't change the fact that we've offered MainSoft [Bristol's main competitor] the same terms. Their large damage request is a sign of their motivation. They've chosen to litigate, rather than negotiate."

Pilla adds that Microsoft believes that Bristol's case is crumbling around it. Earlier this month, U.S. District Court Judge Janet Hall granted Microsoft partial summary judgment in seeking to remove Bristol's "essential facility" claim from its charges against Microsoft. Using the essential facility defence, Bristol was seeking to prove that Microsoft's NT source code was "essential" for Bristol to develop, maintain and improve its flagship Wind/U product.

Bristol, for its part, maintains that it is Microsoft's claims that are in flux. "Microsoft's tack now has moved from what the internal documents say -- we won't license this stuff to Bristol -- to saying they were doing us a favour by not offering us things because it would end up costing us more money," says company CEO Keith Blackwell.

The last of Bristol's witnesses, senior vice president Jean Blackwell, is expected to take the stand Tuesday. Microsoft's first witness, senior vice president Jim Allchin, is expected to take the stand on Wednesday. The trial is expected to last another two to four weeks.

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