Microsoft Corp. will remove a patent-related provision in licensing contracts with personal computer makers, the U.S. software giant’s Japanese unit said Friday.
The Japan unit was raided Thursday by the Fair Trade Commission on suspicion of violating the Antimonopoly Law.
The Japanese antitrust watchdog investigated Microsoft’s headquarters in Tokyo regarding the controversial provision the U.S. firm inserts into contracts with original equipment manufacturers — mostly PC and device makers that sell their products loaded with Microsoft’s Windows operating system.
“Microsoft has decided that, given its focus on improving customer satisfaction, it would delete the provision in its entirety from the next round of OEM contracts, which will take effect later this year,” Microsoft said in a statement released after the raid.
Under the provision, OEMs that license Microsoft’s Windows operating system products, including Microsoft’s patents on Windows, should not later sue each other or Microsoft on claims that Windows violates their patents.
The company said it recently reviewed the provision again after receiving comments on it from some of its OEM customers.
“Microsoft last week notified its OEM customers, including its customers in Japan, that the provision would be deleted,” it said.
But the company said it believes the patent-related provision is “lawful” under Japanese, U.S. and European Union law.
In 1998, the FTC warned Microsoft to stop what it called the unfair business practice of demanding that Japanese PC makers install the Excel spreadsheet and Word application together.
At the time, the FTC also warned against Microsoft’s practice of requiring PC makers to accept the Internet Explorer browser as part of its operating system amid competition with a rival browser, saying it was questionable from an antitrust viewpoint.