Microsoft extends, simplifies protocol licensing
Company acts in response to criticism from U.S. antitrust regulators
IDG News Service - Responding to criticism from U.S. antitrust regulators, Microsoft Corp. has extended a program that lets third parties license its Windows communications protocols to cover a broader range of systems.
The licensing program, called the Microsoft Communications Protocol Program (MCPP), now covers use of the protocols for certain server-to-server and server-to-non-Windows-client communications, according to a filing made with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia yesterday. The type of communications weren't specified in the filing.
The program was originally established to provide third parties with access to protocols that allow Windows clients to communicate with the server version of Windows, so they could make their products work better with Windows PCs.
The filing is a joint status report on Microsoft's adherence to the final judgment made in 2002 in the U.S. Department of Justice's antitrust case against Microsoft. The judgment was entered after Microsoft settled the case with the DOJ and several U.S. states in 2001.
As part of the court's requirements, Microsoft had to make the protocols available to third parties on reasonable, nondiscriminatory terms. Microsoft started licensing the protocols in August 2002, and the program has been revised several times since then in response to comments from the DOJ.
Also yesterday, Microsoft agreed to simplify the technical documentation for the licensing program. A repeated criticism of the MCPP has been that it has attracted only a few companies. According to the filing, 14 companies have now signed up, three more than reported in January. The new licensees are Time Warner Inc., Sun Microsystems Inc. and digital certificate service provider GeoTrust Inc.
A committee working for the DOJ received complaints about the technical documentation Microsoft provides describing the protocols, according to the filing. In response, Microsoft has promised to make the more than 5,000 pages of technical information less complex.
The DOJ and the settling states are still investigating issues around so-called nonassert provisions that Microsoft originally included in the MCPP license but has since removed, according to the filing. The provisions prevent licensees from suing Microsoft over patents related to Windows.
Massachusetts is the only state that hasn't accepted the final judgment in the antitrust case and that's still pursuing tougher remedies to Microsoft's behavior.
A status conference on Microsoft's compliance with the final judgment has been set for April 21, according to the filing.
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