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 system.