DoJ May OK Microsoft to Collect Protocol Royalties

Microsoft may be close to getting U.S. approval to begin charging once again for access to its communications protocols, after having made progress in giving competitors documentation on them as required by its antitrust settlement with the government.

However, don't expect a big jump in Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) bottom line, nor it to begin charging top-dollar fees. As with similar arrangements in the European Union, the royalties are "nominal," according to a source familiar with the case.

The revelation came in the latest of the six-month regular joint filings by Microsoft and the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ), in conjunction with the participating states, submitted last Friday.

"The technical documentation is now substantially complete," the DoJ's portion of the filing said. "The 'substantially complete' determination means that Microsoft may now end the MCPP [Microsoft Communications Protocol Program] licensee interim royalty credit and will be able to resume collecting royalties," the report added.

That's good news for Microsoft, even if it won't yield significant income for the company.

"It represents a positive step in our efforts to comply with our obligations under the consent decree," Kevin Kutz, director of public affairs at Microsoft, told InternetNews.com.

As required by its U.S. antitrust settlement, Microsoft has been working to provide accurate and adequate documentation for various protocols and programming interfaces for several years.

It has not always been speedy about providing those deliverables, however, which is partly what prompted U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly in April to extend oversight of the company's business practices until May 2011.

Neither does the states' and the DoJ's "substantially complete" declaration mean that Microsoft is done with its documentation requirements, the filing said.

"A small number of documents require substantial rewriting or reorganization, test suites for Windows 7 protocols must be written, and Microsoft must continue to resolve licensee concerns and TDIs in a timely manner," it said.

The report states that so far, 55 companies have taken out patent licenses under the MCPP program, and that 42 of them are royalty-bearing licenses.

The plaintiffs also said that they have received a number of complaints regarding Microsoft in the latest reporting period. Of those, 15 were deemed not substantive while one is considered substantive, but the report did not divulge what that complaint concerns.

A status conference with the judge to discuss the filing is scheduled for Dec. 16



About the Author

Stuart Johnston

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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