Microsoft will let customers share intellectual property developed in partnership with the company. The move aligns with what analysts expect will be a growing concern for IT, with more and more enterprises becoming involved in software development.
There has been confusion over who owns newly created intellectual property and concern that without an approach that ensures customers own key patents to their solutions, technology companies like Microsoft will enter those customers’ markets and compete against them with the very techhnology they codeveloped.
Microsoft’s initiative puts the company ahead of the curve on this issue, said Patrick Moorhead, president of the analyst firm Moor Insights & Strategy. “The reality is, most major companies will become [intellectual property] creators in the future, but they don’t know it yet,” said Moorhead. “What Microsoft announced helps those companies protect their [intellectual property] and Microsoft’s in a very open and consistent way. This will likely reduce buyer’s remorse and lawsuits.”
Analyst Stephen O’Grady of RedMonk concurred. “As more enterprises have begun to embrace software as a core to their business rather than simply a cost of doing business, the likelihood that they create potentially valuable [intellectual property] as part of their efforts increases.” Questions concerning ownership of that intellectual property are likely to become more common, he added.
Microsoft’s Shared Innovation Principles cover the following areas:
- Respect for ownership of existing technology. As Microsoft works with customers, the company pledges to ensure that Microsoft and customers will each own improvements made to respective technologies.
- Assuring customer ownership of new patents and design rights. Customers, rather than Microsoft, will own any patents and industrial design rights resulting from shared innovation work.
- Licensing new intellectual property rights back to Microsoft. The company will receive a license back to any patents and design rights in the new technology that results from the shared innovation, but the license will be limited to improving Microsoft’s platform technologies.
- Support for open source. Microsoft will work with customers to contribute code to open source projects.
- Software portability. Microsoft will not impose contractual restrictions preventing customers from porting new, shared innovations to other platforms.
- Transparency and clarity. Microsoft will work with customers to ensure transparency and clarity on IP issues as a shared innovation project moves forward.
- Learning and improvement, with Microsoft pledging to use ongoing learning to improved shared innovation work.