Microsoft announced yesterday that the company will start licensing
some of its intellectual property, opening up its library of patents
and copyrights to third parties for the first time. The move is
designed to offset Microsoft's massive number of patent-dispute
lawsuits and quell the fears of US and European regulators that the
company isn't acting responsibly toward its partners and competitors
and is, instead, a predatory monopolist out to own the largest
possible slice of the IT market. Since Microsoft settled its antitrust
case with the US government, competitors have constantly argued to
authorities that the company hasn't changed its ways.
"A general theme [of these complaints] has been that they would
like to see Microsoft share more technology," Brad Smith, a Microsoft
senior vice president and general counsel, said. "This is a step that
will enhance and promote interoperability. This is the kind of step
that will result in greater consumer choice."
Although full details of the intellectual property licensing policy
are currently unknown, Microsoft did reveal that some technologies,
such as those surrounding Web services, will be licensed royalty-free.
Others, such as the licenses for the FAT file system (still useful for
portable storage devices such as those used in digital cameras) and
ClearType screen-reading technology will come with "negotiable"
royalties. The company noted that Agfa Monotype has already licensed
ClearType, and storage maker Lexar Media has licensed the FAT file