Microsoft Hoarding Patents Like They're Going Out Of Fashion

from the 200-here,-200-there...-soon-you're-talking-about-real-innovation dept

A few years back, Microsoft decided to shift its strategy on software patents. The contrast in what Microsoft was saying publicly about patents was stark:
Brad Smith, Microsoft general counsel, 2007: "Protection for software patents and other intellectual property is essential to maintaining the incentives that encourage and underwrite technological breakthroughs. In every industry, patents provide the legal foundation for innovation. The ensuing legal disputes may be messy, but protection is no less necessary, even so."

Bill Gates, Microsoft CEO, 1991: "If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today's ideas were invented and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today... A future start-up with no patents of its own will be forced to pay whatever price the giants choose to impose."
If you needed any proof that Microsoft has shifted from a "young company innovates" to an "old company litigates" stance, just take a look at the massive ramp up in patents awarded to Microsoft over the last decade and a half. It's been steady growth, with a massive leap in the past two years.

Every week, if you follow patents granted to Microsoft you see huge numbers. In the past four weeks alone, Microsoft has been granted 49 patents (June 24), 44 patents (June 17), 42 patents (June 10) and 76 patents (June 3). That's 211 patents this month alone. Compare that to a company like Google, who was granted a grand total of 7 patents in June.

The patent system was designed to award incentives in the rarest of circumstances -- when the free market alone wouldn't provide the incentives necessary to bring a technology forward. When a single company is getting over 200 patents a month, the system isn't functioning as intended. It's not an incentive to innovation. It's a tax on innovation.

Filed Under: hoarding, patents
Companies: microsoft


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  1. icon
    Steve R. (profile), 26 Jun 2008 @ 10:50am

    Its a Matter of Perspective

    The patent system may be corrupt. A reasonable reaction to that may be patent hoarding. But ....

    We have two issues. First, as Mike has pointed out we have a shift in Microsoft's world view. Corruption of our patent system is irrelevant. Microsoft is simply now a company that is not interested in innovation but a company that now views its products as "cash cows". Litigation is necessary to keep the toll-booths in existence so they can exact revenue.

    Second, OK - corruption is an issue. Then why don't we hear about Microsoft lobbying Congress to get the patent system fixed? If Disney can get favorable legislation passed by Congress to protect its business model; Microsoft could also go to Congress to reform the patent system. The fact that they apparently don't implies that Microsoft really is NOT interested in fixing the patent system. Ergo, they want the revenue stream that the toll-booths provide.

    I wonder if we can apply to the Bill Gates Foundation for grant monies to fix the world-wide abuse of intellectual property so that we can feed the children?

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