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Link of the day: Microsoft protects its partners against patent litigation

10 February 2006 by Ch. Tronche | Filed under Software patents.

Source: The Register.

Once again we have to question if patents (essentially software ones) are part of the solution or part of the problem.

In short, Microsoft wants to enter the smart phone market. Not only to enter it, but to storm it. To become the Microsoft of the smart phone, the undisputable mammoth.

However, the task is such than even Microsoft can’t do it alone. It needs other companies to build everything that’s necessary and is not an operating system or an application. It wants an ecology of applications for smart phones and PDAs, with Microsoft operating system at the center of the stage, very much like every third-party application for desktop Windows adds value to Microsoft today (and may be lack of appropriate software for Windows server makes avenue for other operating systems in the server world, but that’s another story).
The trouble is that companies (especially technologically saavy ones) are rather cold about it nowadays: they remember RIM vs NTP, RIM in Germany, battles around Qualcomm’s patents and more, and more.

So they don’t even try, and those having patents are the winners: they’ve stopped innovation from their competitors, not because their patents hold, because of superior technology or better product (they seldom build products), but by fear of litigation.

Thus, this isn’t good news for Microsoft. But there’s a solution: protect the small companies from IP litigation with the mighty shield of Microsoft money. This is what Microsoft is proposing.

Two thoughts about it:

  1. Funny time when small companies must be protected against the devastating effects of software patents by the software titan, Microsoft itself. Funny we need this so the locomotive of innovation can resume its course. Weren’t patents supposed to make innovation blossom ? Weren’t patents (not Microsoft) supposed to protect these innovative companies ?
  2. Now, if you’re CEO of such a company, and the company’s good, you know what’s your future: you’ll be bought by Microsoft. For quite cheap. If your product really thrills and Microsoft really needs it, Bill will just takes the shield off for you. He can do it, after all it’s his shield. And you, poor lamb, what will you do ? Fight the patents coyotes or sell yourself to Microsoft to go back to its protective umbrella ? But know that it won’t pay too much for that. It won’t have to. Offering an IP umbrella for free may be a very good investment for Redmond champion.

There was another way to unleash innovation by the way: just drop software patents in the law.

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