The US DoJ (Department of Justice) asked a judge last week to extend for at least two years parts of an antitrust order for Microsoft because of the company's delays in supplying technical documentation to licensees of its communications protocols.

Microsoft has agreed with the DoJ's request to extend the order two years beyond its scheduled expiration in November 2007, the company said in a statement. It has also agreed to allow the DoJ and 17 state plaintiffs in the antitrust case to ask for an additional three-year extension if they still have complaints about Microsoft documentation.

The DoJ committed to "full and vigorous enforcement" of the final judgment, J Bruce McDonald, deputy assistant attorney general in the DoJ's Antitrust Division, said in a statement. Companies that want to license the communications protocols will be able to obtain compete and accurate documentation as a result of the extension, he said.

The state of the technical documentation, used by companies that license the communications protocols in Microsoft's software, is one of the major complaints remaining in the antitrust settlement approved by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly in November 2002. Kollar-Kotelly, of the US District Court for the District of Columbia, must approve an extension of the settlement order.

Under the settlement, Microsoft was required to license the communication protocols to other IT vendors interested in developing server software that works with Microsoft's Windows operating system.

As part of the agreement, Microsoft will change the way it has produced technical documentation, now writing it as it develops software, the company said on Friday. The licensing of the protocols will become part Microsoft’s "regular product development and business processes", Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel, said in a statement.

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