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

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