• United States

Microsoft extends, simplifies protocol licensing

Apr 15, 20043 mins

Responding to criticism from U.S. anti-trust regulators, Microsoft 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 Wednesday. The type of communications were not specified in the filing.

The program was originally established to provide access to protocols that allow Windows clients to communicate with the server version of Windows, so that third parties could make their products work better with Windows PCs.

The filing is a joint status report on Microsoft’s adherence to the final judgment in the U.S. Department of Justice’s anti-trust case against Microsoft made in 2002. The judgment was entered after Microsoft settled the case with the Department of Justice 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 Justice Department.

Additionally Wednesday, 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 Wednesday’s filing, 14 companies have now signed up, three more than reported in January. The new licensees are Time Warner, Sun and digital certificate service provider GeoTrust, according to the filing.

A committee working for the Justice Department 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 Justice Department 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 has not accepted the final judgment in the antitrust case and is 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.

More information on the MCPP is can be found here.