March 29, 2013
Microsoft Publishes It’s Entire Patent Portfolio To Dissuade Infringement
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
Microsoft is approaching the patent litigation game with a bit of tact, giving any potential infringers the benefit of the doubt. As a way to avoid any further patent battles and further protect their intellectual property (IP), Microsoft has published each of their 40,785 patents online, a move the company hopes others will follow. This way, anyone who might want to use a patent can discover which IP the Redmond, Washington-based company actually owns. Presumably, this also means Microsoft can use this transparency to their benefit in court.
“One of the fundamental objectives of the patent system is to provide notice regarding inventions — not only the nature of what has been invented but who owns the patent,” writes Brad Smith, Microsoft´s General Counsel and executive Vice President of legal and corporate affairs in a blog post.
“Transparency around patent ownership will help prevent gamesmanship by companies that seek to lie in wait and “hold up” companies rather than enable a well-functioning secondary market,“ he adds. “Quite simply, without transparency it is impossible to determine if a company is in fact abiding by those commitments.”
To navigate through this lengthy list of patents, the company has created the Patent Tracker tool. Using the tool, anyone with an interest in Microsoft patents can find what their looking for in one of two ways.
First, the Patent Tracker can find patents by number, title, the region where the patent is held, and the person to whom the patent was assigned.
The Web site also offers a CSV file containing all 40,785 patents. With this file, users can search through the same list of patents in whichever application or program they prefer. Microsoft, of course, suggests opening the file in Excel.
In his blog post, Smith writes that the goal of Patent Tracker is to work with the patent system in order to improve the system from within.
The tech world has been embroiled in patent litigation in recent years, with each company seemingly suing all the other companies.
For instance, Microsoft is currently battling Google´s Motorola Mobility over syncing and video patents. Most recently an International Trade Commission (ITC) judge ruled that Microsoft´s Xbox does not infringe on a Motorola-owned patent and therefore should not be banned for sale in the US.
Therein lies only one of the problems of today´s patent system. If a company claims to have ownership of a bit of technology, like a method or protocol, they can sue other companies who they believe are using the same technology. If the suit goes through and the court sides with the complainant, the defendant can have their product banned for sale.
Its an extreme reaction to have for the misuse of a single method.
Smith says he hopes the other players in the patent system, including congress, courts and the US Patent and Trademark Office, will begin working together to improve the current state of the patent system.
Transparency is just the first step to repairing this system, says Smith.
“We urge other companies to join us in making available information about which patents they own. By doing so, they will help increase transparency, facilitate licensing, and help ensure that the patent system continues to fulfill its role in promoting and encouraging innovation.”