Microsoft defends settlement deal

A top Microsoft official refuted allegations that the company is using the proposed antitrust settlement with the US Department...

A top Microsoft official refuted allegations that the company is using the proposed antitrust settlement with the US Department of Justice (DoJ) and nine states to its benefit, according to a court filing on 22 February.

Nine states and the District of Columbia, which did not sign on to the proposed settlement, alleged earlier this week that Microsoft wrote a proposed uniform Windows licence in a way that would squeeze PC makers out of their patent rights. PC makers, including Sony have voiced similar concerns.

As part of the proposed settlement, Microsoft must license Windows to its 20 largest PC maker customers under a uniform contract.

Richard Fade, senior vice-president of Microsoft's original equipment manufacturer (OEM) division, the states and some PC makers argued that Microsoft had added "onerous" terms to its Windows licence, including one in which PC makers would be banned from asserting patent claims against Microsoft and Microsoft licensees.

On 22 February, Microsoft filed papers with the US District Court for the District of Columbia "to correct a number of statements" made by the suing states regarding changes to its Windows licence. One of those filings, a declaration by Fade, addresses the allegations regarding the patent provisions.

Fade said the section of the contract regarding patents would only pertain to claims concerning the Windows operating system that is being licensed, not other Microsoft products. The suing states alleged that section extended to other Microsoft products, such as its Xbox video game console.

The debate now may come up at a hearing on 6 March at which Microsoft, the DoJ and the nine settling states are scheduled to discuss the stack of public comments received as part of a 60-day comment period required by the Tunney Act.

Neither Microsoft nor the DoJ will oppose the suing states taking part in that hearing, they said.

A number of third-party groups also have asked to take part in the hearing. However, Microsoft and the DoJ have opposed a number of those motions to intervene, including one from the Software & Information Industry Association.

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