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Microsoft agrees to first data license after EU antitrust case

Microsoft Corp., the world's biggest software company, signed its first technology licensing agreement with a competitor almost three years after it was forced to release the data by European Union regulators.

Quest Software Inc., a maker of database management programs, said in a statement today that it has a license for so-called network protocols that allow it to develop competing products based on Unix, Linux and Java network software. Quest can now integrate its products with Microsoft's Windows work group networks. „This is a powerful interoperability application and we are very pleased to have Quest as the first licensee in this program,” Erich Andersen, Microsoft Europe's associate general counsel, said in a statement today in Brussels. The European Commission, the EU's antitrust regulator, last week threatened to fine Microsoft for not complying with a 2004 antitrust ruling. In the US, Justice Department lawyers said yesterday they were „troubled” that Microsoft asked for a two-month extension in making all its software code available to licensees under the terms of a 2001 settlement accord.

On March 1, the commission said that Microsoft's royalty rates for 51 protocols that didn't include patents were „unreasonable” because they had „virtually no innovation.” Quest Software, based in Aliso Viejo, California, agreed on a set of „all patent” protocols at a royalty rate of 5.25% of net revenue generated by the company's products, Microsoft said. Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft said the agreement „clearly shows that Quest believes the royalties are reasonable.” The company has 27 licensees under a similar program in the US. Last week, the commission said the rates for patent-based protocols were also unreasonable because comparable technologies are available royalty-free. „It will be interesting to see whether Quest Software ever enters the market for interoperable work group server operating systems,” Jonathan Todd, a commission spokesman, said today. (Bloomberg)