The Japan Fair Trade Commission (FTC) raided Microsoft's Tokyo offices yesterday on suspicion of antitrust violations, according to Japanese law enforcement officials. The raid represents the second time the FTC has investigated Microsoft in recent years; in 1998, the commission warned Microsoft that the way the company bundled Microsoft Office with Windows in Japan raised antitrust concerns. The company responded by removing the bundle, and Japan dropped the warning. This time, the FTC is concerned about Windows licensing.
"The company is suspected of setting unfair conditions when giving licenses for Windows to Japanese computer makers," an FTC representative said yesterday. At issue is a clause that prevents Japanese computer makers such as Fujitsu, Hitachi, Matsushita Electric Industrial, NEC, and Sony from suing Microsoft if they discover that the software giant is illegally using their patented technologies. "Unless Japanese companies agree to the clause, they cannot preinstall Windows in their computers," the representative noted.
Today, Microsoft confirmed the raid. "Some commission officials came to our headquarters this morning, and they are holding a meeting with our company officials," a Microsoft spokesperson said, noting that the company is looking into the reasons for the raid. Microsoft had no further comment.