Microsoft has announced a new IP strategy to meet what it calls an “era of shared innovation”.

“It is based on a set of principles designed to address co-created technology and intellectual property (IP) issues that give customers clarity and confidence regarding their work with Microsoft,” explains president Brad Smith. “The initiative is designed to strike a healthy balance that will both help our customers grow their business through technology and enable Microsoft to continue to improve its platform products.”

The idea is to assuage worries that the company will use knowledge from partnerships to compete against innovators in their own market. The core of Microsoft’s IP strategy is seven innovation principles that cover the following:

  1. Respect for ownership of existing technology
  2. Assuring customer ownership of new patents and design rights
  3. Support for open source
  4. Licensing new IP rights back to Microsoft
  5. Software portability
  6. Transparency and clarity
  7. Learning and improvement

A Step in the Right Direction

Under the principles, Microsoft agrees that each partner owns the existing technology and IP that it brings to the table. As it progresses, the company will ensure both have similar ownership of any improvements.

On top of this, customers will own patents and design rights, rather than Microsoft. It will cooperate in any patent application filings resulting from new invention work, including rights, titles, and interest.

The company also agrees to assist in the creation of open source projects with the code customers are licensed to use. It marks a shift in philosophy on both open source and Linux.

Of course, Microsoft still withholds the right to receive a license back to any patents and design rights, but exclusively for improving its current platforms. This includes existing and future versions of Azure, Office 365, Cortana, Bing, Xbox, etc.

As a whole, the strategy addresses concerns that have been floating around for some time. It puts Microsoft ahead of the curve, while likely reducing lawsuits due to its transparency.