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In a largely symbolic move, Japan’s trade watchdog will issue a warning against Microsoft Corp. this week, but likely won’t fine the software giant, a commission official said Friday. Microsoft has been under investigation on suspicion of violating the country’s anti-monopoly law. The Fair Trade Commission official, speaking on condition of anonymity, would provide no other details. The commission raided Microsoft’s Japan offices in February as part of an investigation into the Redmond, Wash.-based company’s contracts with manufacturers, which allegedly contained restrictive conditions that would prevent patent infringement lawsuits. Microsoft said it has omitted the conditions from new contracts. However, Microsoft maintains that the disputed provisions are legal under Japanese, U.S. and European Union law, said Kazushi Okabe, a Microsoft spokesman in Tokyo. Some Japanese computer manufacturers are worried that the Microsoft agreements could allow their software technology to fall into the hands of competitors using Microsoft’s Windows operating system. In 1998, the commission ordered Microsoft to stop bundling software pre-installed in personal computers in a way that put competitors at a disadvantage. But the company wasn’t fined or charged with a crime. On March 24, the European Commission found Microsoft abused its “near monopoly” with Windows software, levied a record fine of about $613 million and demanded changes in how Microsoft operates in Europe to improve competition globally. Microsoft is appealing that decision. In the United States, an appeals court last month approved a landmark antitrust settlement Microsoft negotiated with the Justice Department. The complex settlement permits computer makers to hide Microsoft’s built-in Web browser software so that consumers can more seamlessly use products from Microsoft’s rivals. The appeals court said an alternate settlement proposal from Massachusetts to require Microsoft to remove parts of its software from the dominant Windows operating system could hurt consumers by leading to a confusing world with different versions of Windows. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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