A legal dispute between Microsoft and Japanese antitrust regulators is likely to conclude next year and might lead to lawsuits or other patent infringement complaints against the software company, an executive said Thursday.
Any such action will likely happen only in Japan, apply to Japanese patents filed in 2004 or earlier, and won’t affect U.S. patents, Microsoft Corp. Senior Vice President Brad Smith said during a trip to Tokyo.
The Fair Trade Commission, the nation’s antitrust body, and Microsoft have been wrangling since 2004 over a controversial clause in licensing agreements.
The clause prevents companies from suing Microsoft over patent and copyright infringement if they suspect their own software technology has ended up in the Windows operating system.
Microsoft, based in Redmond, Wash., has repeatedly said the clause is lawful. It dropped the clause in 2004.
The antitrust commission suspects the clause has helped Microsoft unlawfully infringe patents but there aren’t really any specific examples and it isn’t certain that the clause will be formally disallowed.