DOJ asks for extension of Microsoft antitrust judgment

Update: Plaintiffs want 18 more months of oversight in a move that reverses the DOJ's previous stance

The U.S. Department of Justice has asked a U.S. judge to extend her antitrust judgment against Microsoft by at least 18 months in order to give the company enough time to fix problems in technical documentation required in a communication protocols licensing program.

The DOJ on Thursday filed documents asking Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to extend her oversight of the Microsoft antitrust settlement. The antitrust order, originally scheduled to expire in November 2007, has already been extended by two years because of complaints about the state of the technical documentation.

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The DOJ's request comes after the agency asked for an extension of the part of the judgment dealing with technical documentation in 2006. The DOJ, in 2007, opposed an extension of the judgment, even though two groups of states that had joined the DOJ in suing Microsoft had asked for a five-year extension.

The two groups of state attorneys general that joined the DOJ in the original antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft also joined in the request for an 18-month extension. The 1998 lawsuit against Microsoft alleged that the company had abused its monopoly power in the operating systems and Web browser markets.

Under the settlement, Microsoft is required to license the communication protocols to other IT vendors interested in developing server software that works with Microsoft's Windows operating system. As of March 31, there were 1,716 identified problems in the technical documentation, according to an antitrust status report filed Thursday.

A Microsoft spokeswoman said the company would not comment on the request for an extension. But Microsoft did point to the DOJ and state plaintiffs saying, in the joint status report, that the company has made significant progress in fixing bugs in the technical documentation.

"It is clear to Plaintiffs that Microsoft has made substantial progress in improving the technical documentation over the last two years," the status report says. "While the entire project has taken longer than any of the parties anticipated, the project is nearly complete."

But the status report goes on to say that while the technical documentation templates appear to be "reasonably thorough and comprehensible," there remains much work left to do. The plaintiffs expect there will be "thousands" of bugs to fix even though the documentation appears to be complete, the status report says.

The extension would extend the settlement and monitoring until May 2011. The DOJ and states chose an 18-month extension "because it was long enough to allow for a reasonable degree of confidence that additional extensions will not be necessary," the status report says.

A correction was made to this story on April 17, 2009.

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