Microsoft Japan raided
Correspondents in Tokyo
FEBRUARY 27, 2004
JAPAN'S monopoly watchdog raided the Tokyo headquarters of US software giant Microsoft's local unit for allegedly violating the country's anti-trust law.
"The company is suspected of setting unfair conditions when giving licenses for Windows to Japanese computer makers," a Fair Trade Commission (FTC) official said.
Under the contracts, the Japanese companies are not allowed to sue Microsoft even if they find their patent technology being used in Windows software, the official said, adding this included NEC, Fujitsu, Matsushita, Hitachi and Sony.
"Unless Japanese companies agree to the clause, they cannot pre-install Windows in their computers," he said.
Microsoft's Windows is the dominant software operating system for computer users.
A spokesman for the Japanese unit, Microsoft Co, confirmed the raid but declined to comment further.
"Some commission officials came to our headquarters this morning and they are holding a meeting with our company officials," the spokesman said.
To press ahead with the investigation, the FTC is seeking the cooperation of the Japanese computer manufacturers, the FTC official said. Spokesmen for NEC, Fujitsu and Matsushita said FTC officials visited their headquarters Thursday, but declined to comment further.
In 1998, the FTC, after 11 months of investigation, issued a pro forma warning for Microsoft's Japanese unit because of the way it had bundled its popular Office programs.
Microsoft provided Office programs to Japanese computer makers with a small bundle comprising only word processing program Microsoft Word and spreadsheet maker Excel.
A Japanese software maker argued the small bundle competed unfairly with other office programs, triggering an FTC raid on Microsoft's Tokyo offices in January 1998.
Along with the warning, the FTC issued a recommendation that Microsoft should give Japanese computer makers a choice in which software to install