Microsoft to offer patent protection for Azure customers using open source software

Kit McDonald

Microsoft wants to help fight legal claims against intellectual property (IP) in the cloud, according to its most recent announcement. With the rise of patent litigations pushing against Azure (and alternative cloud) customers, the tech giant is beginning to push back with a new initiative to fight these claims.

The Microsoft Azure IP Advantage program will encourage a focus on digital expansion and development, according to the Microsoft blog posted today.

It includes the following benefits:

1)      Our best-in-industry intellectual property protection with uncapped indemnification coverage will now also cover any open source technology that powers Microsoft Azure services, such as Hadoop used for Azure HD Insight.

2)      We will make 10,000 Microsoft patents available to customers that use Azure services for the sole purpose of enabling them to better defend themselves against patent lawsuits against their services that run on top of Azure. These patents are broadly representative of Microsoft’s overall patent portfolio and are the result of years of cutting-edge innovation by our best engineers around the world.

3)      We are pledging to Azure customers that if Microsoft transfers patents in the future to non-practicing entities, they can never be asserted against them. We do not have a practice of making such transfers, but we have learned that this is an extra protection that many customers value.

Bloomberg Technology reports that Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith describes the new program as creating a “patent umbrella and we let our customers stand underneath it”. Quite a big umbrella if the tech giant’s claim of 60,000 patents total is to be believed. But, they are only offering 10,000.

Microsoft has offered patent protection for its own technologies already, but this new initiative adds open source protections, as well.

Since this type of initiative is incredibly new to the cloud computing market, Microsoft is taking a step out of the comfort zone. Maybe it will even dissuade the increase of IP claims in the future. One thing is for certain, however, and that is that Azure is now offering a service that no other cloud provider offers. Yet.