Microsoft, the Department of Justice and the Consent Decree of 1994

In 1994, Microsoft signed a consent decree with the Department of Justice that provides Microsoft would not enter into any license agreement that: 

  • Exceeds one year in duration
  • Restricts OEM ability to offer a non-Microsoft operating system
  • Is a per processor license
  • Conditions license upon licensing of any other Covered Product
  • Contains a minimum commitment
  • Is contrary to descriptions of acceptable per system licenses
  • Contains any prohibited non-disclosure agreement

Microsoft has suggested this defeat was somehow a victory, and was in fact no finding of liability. Attorney General Janet Reno saw things differently, and said so on July 16, 1994:

"Microsoft's unfair contracting practices have denied other U.S. companies a fair chance to compete, deprived consumers of an effective choice among competing PC operating systems, and slowed innovation."

The Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Antitrust Division, Anne K. Bingaman, expressed a similar sentiment:

"Microsoft is an American success story but there is no excuse for any company to try to cement its success through unlawful means, as Microsoft has done with its contracting practices."