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Sun-Microsoft Pact Excludes OpenOffice Users

Microsoft Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. have agreed not to sue each other or their customers for patent infringements, but the pact announced in April specifically states that the protection does not apply to licensees of a free alternative to Microsoft Office software, government documents show.

In its annual filing this week with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Sun, based in Santa Clara, Calif., included the underlying legal documents of the wide-ranging settlement agreement that marked a new era of cooperation between the two rivals, which pledged that the pact would lead to interoperability between their products.

The agreement states that neither company would sue the other or its customers for any patent infringement alleged before the deal was signed or for the next 10 years, as long as Microsoft paid Sun annual extension fees. The deal, however, specifically excludes licensees of OpenOffice, a free alternative to Microsoft Office.

"Microsoft shall not be foreclosed by this agreement from seeking damages from authorized licensees of OpenOffice for copies of OpenOffice made or acquired prior to the effective date of this agreement," the filing says. "Nor shall Microsoft be foreclosed from seeking any damages from Sun, its affiliates, authorized licensees or any third party for any copies of OpenOffice made or deployed by a user after the effective date."

Sun contributed the code that became the foundation of OpenOffice, and remains a major supporter of the project. The company also offers its own version of the software, called StarOffice, which is protected under the agreement.

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