In the United States, the possession of patents can allow you to do a lot of damage. This is the main activity of those known as "patent trolls", companies that recover the rights to technological patents and sue other companies that develop tools or software close technologies they own. Because US justice is what it is, attacked companies generally prefer to negotiate an amicable settlement rather than settle the dispute with a judge. Faced with this phenomenon, companies in the sector come together in associations and the Open Invention Network, which has 2,650 members and includes more than 1,350 patents, is one of the largest of them; The members of these associations promise not to attack each other on the use of patents and offer others the opportunity to use their patents without paying royalties. The ISO can now count on a new member of weight: Microsoft, who announced joining the association and open its patent portfolio to other members.
Change of direction
The announcement is significant: Microsoft is known to hold several patents relating to technology used by Android and did not hesitate to ask royalties to competing companies that developed Android smartphones under these patents. The trick represented a significant source of revenue for Microsoft, which had been able to draw about $ 3.4 billion on its Android patent in 2014. But this policy did not go very well in the eyes of the open source community that does not did not deny criticism of the policy of the Redmond firm in this area.
But today, Microsoft likes Linux, the open source, and the publisher has drawn a line on its mobile division. A change in policy that now leads the company to make its software patents available to the community. As Erich Andersen, Microsoft's chief legal officer, explains in a blog post, this policy shift began two years ago and joining ISO is just a stone in the new strategy. "We started on this path two years ago, with the introduction of the Azure IP advantage program, which extended the compensation system to open source programs running Azure. This plan protects Azure users against patent trolls by offering them the ability to use Microsoft patent-free technologies without constraints. In addition to these efforts, Microsoft has joined several other anti-patent trolls associations. taking positions with Red Hat on the adoption of a new version of the GPLv3 license, which includes provisions to limit the use of legal channels to resolve conflicts over the use of licenses.