Microsoft says joint venture partners will keep patents

Microsoft president Brad Smith wrote in a blog post that Microsoft customers do not have to be concerned that Microsoft might set up a competing business after working with them to develop new products.

In the post, Smith outlined what Microsoft calls its “Shared Innovation Initiative” which promises that any patents or design rights that result from joint work will remain with the customer and not with Microsoft.

Smith wrote: “As collaboration like this between tech companies and their customers increases, so will the questions regarding who owns the patents and resulting intellectual property.

“There is growing concern that without an approach that ensures customers’ own key patents to their new solutions, tech companies will use the knowledge to enter their customers’ market and compete against them – perhaps even using the IP that customers helped create.”

Smith wrote that Microsoft’s newly published “Shared Innovation Principles” will cover seven areas:

  • Respect for ownership of existing technology
  • Assuring customer ownership of new patents and design rights
  • Support for open source
  • Licensing new IP rights back to Microsoft
  • Software portability
  • Transparency and clarity
  • Learning and improvement

Smith added: “We each own the existing technology and IP that we bring to the table when we partner together.

“As we work with customers, we’ll ensure that we similarly will each own the improvements made to our respective technologies that result from our collaboration …

“As we work together to create new technology, our customers, rather than Microsoft, will own any patents and industrial design rights that result from our shared innovation work …

“Among other things, this means that Microsoft will cooperate in the filing of any patent applications resulting from the new invention work.

“This also means that Microsoft will assign to the customer all of the rights, titles and interest in the patents we create together …

“Microsoft 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 our platform technologies …”