US DOJ lets Microsoft resume collecting protocol royalties

The technical documentation for protocols is substantially complete, the DOJ says

Microsoft may begin collecting royalties again for licensing some protocols because clear technical documentation is now available, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) said on Tuesday.

The change comes after the DOJ issued its latest joint status report regarding its 2002 antitrust settlement with Microsoft.

The settlement required Microsoft to make available technical documentation that would allow other vendors to make products that are interoperable with Microsoft's Windows operating systems.

The program, called the Microsoft Communications Protocol Program (MCPP), allowed vendors to license certain protocols from Microsoft. But Microsoft and the DOJ disagreed over the quality of the documentation, and Microsoft engineers had to rewrite large tracts of it.

The DOJ said the plaintiffs now regard the documentation as "substantially complete" although "a small number of documents require substantial rewriting or reorganization," the DOJ said. Also, test suites for Windows 7 protocols must be written.

So far, 55 companies are licensing patents for communications protocols. Forty-two of those companies would be required to pay royalties. Some protocols are available for free from Microsoft, and the DOJ said documents describing protocols have been downloaded more than 732,000 times.

In another part of the status report, the DOJ said a new "substantive complaint" against Microsoft was received in September. The state plaintiffs and the technical committee "are currently engaged in ongoing discussions with both Microsoft and the complainant." No further information was available.

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Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
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