Microsoft profiting from antitrust punishment

License fees

Microsoft's gift for turning its punishments into business opportunities continues to rankle with the States who brought antitrust suits against the software giant. A filing with the US Department of Justice reveals that Microsoft has already been asked to reduce the licensing fees for its communications protocols it is obliged to publish. Under the joint Se[a]ttlement between the Department of Justice and the States, Microsoftmust provide the information under a RAND (reasonable and non-discriminatory) license.

Just four vendors have taken up the opportunity, according to the filing: EMC, VeriSign, NetApp and StarBak Communications. Microsoft has already been asked to lower the royalties for licensing these protocols:

"Microsoft has worked diligently to substantially rewrite its license agreement for the Communications Protocols and to restructure the royalties in order to accommodate Plaintiffs' concerns," according to the document.

However two States, New York and California, may seek a court order to lower the licensing fees even further. The filing says that sixteen out of eighteen "substantive complaints" against Microsoft have required investigation.

An earlier version of the antitrust settlement required Microsoft to help establish an independent compliance center. The toothless version agreed by Judge Kollar Kottelly envisaged a world where the lion would like down with the lamb:

"The committee will likely foster an environment of cooperative resolution, rather than one of persistent conflict and litigation. Otherwise, attempts at enforcement have a greater potential to take on the tenor of adversary proceedings, resolved in most instances with great difficulty and delay," she noted.

With at least two States gearing up for more challenges, it appears that Kollar Kottelly is already disappointed.

In an earlier settlement, Microsoft used the remedy opportunity to offer Microsoft software to schools. And Sony has already complained that Microsoft was using the antitrust remedies to renegotiate its OEM licenses.

"Sony must agree to new 'uniform' non-assertion covenants that may weaken previously negotiated protections for Sony's intellectual property," it wrote in a filing last year.®

Related Link

Compliance Report

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