DoJ Questions Microsoft’s Compliance

The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) and the 16 states that reached the November 2002 anti-trust settlement agreement with Microsoft, said last week “numerous concerns” still exist with Microsoft’s compliance efforts.

In the first status report to U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who oversaw the settlement agreement, the primary concern of the plaintiffs is Microsoft’s post-settlement efforts at setting licensing and royalty rates for allowing competitors access to its communications protocols.

As part of the settlement, Microsoft agreed to license the protocols to allow third party vendors to develop programs and hardware that communicate with the Windows operating system.

Access to those protocols was called by Kollar-Ketelly the “most forward-looking provision in the Court’s remedy” and directed toward “unfettering the market and restoring competition.”

Since the settlement, only four companies have licensed Microsoft’s Communications Protocol Licensing Program (MCPP).

The plaintiffs now claim they may have to seek a court order to force Microsoft to lease the technical information in a “reasonable and non-discriminatory manner.” The DoJ and the states also complain of Microsoft’s slowness in complying with the licensing settlement terms.

Under those terms, Microsoft was required to implement reasonable and non-discriminatory (RAND) terms for the MCPP within 90 days of the final settlement. The plaintiffs argue that Microsoft has not complied with those terms.

“It is quite possible that the core of the decree would prove prematurely obsolete,” the report reads, if Microsoft doesn’t comply.

“While plaintiffs are continuing to work with Microsoft to improve the MCPP so that the Communications Protocols are licensed under RAND terms, plaintiffs recognize that further steps may need to be taken, either pursuant to agreement or order of the Court, to account for Microsoft’s delayed implementation,” the report states.

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