Microsoft unveils IP licensing program

4 December 2003 Microsoft has unveiled a licensing program that will enable competitors as well as partners to use its technology in their own products.


The move follows mounting criticism that the software giant was not conforming to the spirit of the 2001 antitrust settlement, which demanded that it licence Windows operating system “protocols” on “reasonable and non-discriminatory” terms.

Prior to the announcement, Microsoft had licensed a handful of technologies on a case-by-case basis, but a number of licensees had complained to antitrust authorities that the terms it was demanding were unfair.


“[Microsoft is] open for business in terms of licensing our intellectual property”

  • Brad Smith, Microsoft general counsel

    “Microsoft is maturing and is beginning to recognize it must take more of a leadership role”

  • Joe Wilcox, Jupiter Research

    “The more complementary products, the larger the Windows ecosystem”

  • Al Gillen, IDC

    “Microsoft has historically been very protective of its IP”

  • Joe Beyers, VP of intellectual property licensing, Hewlett-Packard  

    Under the new scheme, Microsoft will licence a broad array of technologies numbering about 4,000, starting with its ClearType font display and file allocation table (FAT) disk formatting system, which is used in Windows 98 and ME, said Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel.

    In addition, the academic community will be given access to all of Microsoft’s patent portfolio, royalty-free.

    Smith said that the program had been under development for about a year, but that it would not contribute a significant amount to Microsoft’s profits for the foreseeable future.

    He added that the new program had not been motivated by a need to address the concerns of European Union regulators, who are currently investigating the company over alleged anti-competitive practices.

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    Ben Rossi

    Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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