Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC) investigators and lawyers from Microsoft met on Monday in a hearing to clarify the JFTC's position in an ongoing dispute about the company's licensing practices.

During the 15-minute meeting, Microsoft's lawyers asked the JFTC to clarify its position so the company can prepare its refutation, said Toshihiro Hara, director of the JFTC's First Special Investigation Division in an email.

"Microsoft said that the JFTC investigator's assertion was unclear in several points," said Hara.

The meeting on Monday followed a first meeting on October 25, when the JFTC listed its charges. The two sides will meet next on February 4 when the JFTC will present its assertions in writing, he said.

Many rivers to cross

Monday's meeting saw no change in the discussions with the JFTC, said Aki Araki, a spokeswoman for Microsoft. "Both sides are quite far from each other," she said.

In July, the JFTC charged that certain provisions in license agreements between Microsoft and Japanese PC vendors violated Japan's Antimonopoly Act. Microsoft allegedly forced the vendors to accept a contractual clause stipulating that they can't bring a case to court even if Microsoft's technologies are very similar to those developed by Japanese firms.

Retrospective compliance

Microsoft rejected the charges, saying it had dropped the disputed provisions from new licenses in February. However, the company did keep the provisions on existing licenses. The JFTC raided the company's Tokyo headquarters later that month.

The dispute could take between two and three years to resolve, according to the JFTC. "Basically, the JFTC's investigators have not changed their position," said Hara.

In a separate case, a ruling on Microsoft's attempt to suspend anticompetitive sanctions imposed upon it by the European Union (EU) is expected soon this week.