Japanese FTC raids Microsoft offices

Microsoft Corporation's legal woes reached an almost surreal level on Tuesday when the Fair Trade Commission of Japan (FTCJ) announced that it had raided the software giant's Tokyo offices. The FTCJ is investigating Microsoft's bundling of Word and Excel with Windows in Japan. Microsoft offered the bundle to OEMs in Japan as a response to a similar bundle by Justsystem, the leading supplier of software in Japan.

The FTCJ is accusing Microsoft of forcing OEMs to install Word and Excel, as well as forcing them to not install Netscape Navigator.

"Microsoft is suspected to have violated section 19 of the Japanese antitrust act," said an FTCJ representative. "This is just a starting point. The \[FTCJ\] is just collecting evidence about the violation of Microsoft, and from now on will review the evidence that it has collected and will decide if Microsoft violated Japanese antitrust law or not."

The pre-dawn raid on Microsoft's offices is standard practice for the Japanese government's protectionist trade practices. The Japanese have historically protected their own companies from foreign trade, though the FTCJ denied that it was unfairly enforcing the law against Microsoft.

"I cannot agree with that idea at all," said the representative. "The \[FTCJ\] is equally enforcing law against Japanese and other foreign companies."

Microsoft is promising full cooperation with the investigation.

"We've seen Microsoft doing somewhat better in the word-processing market against a longtime market leader," said Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith. "It was the clear focus of the FTCJ's review today to examine any document that pertained to the competition between Microsoft and Justsystem."

Smith says that when Japan began the investigation in October 1997, Microsoft voluntarily offered to provide any required information. He said the company heard nothing from the Japanese until the morning raid

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