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Microsoft launches new Azure intellectual property protections

Blair Hanley Frank | Feb. 9, 2017
Customers get improved indemnity for open source use and possible patent transfer

Microsoft already offered customers indemnification from intellectual property lawsuits resulting from the use of its services, but it didn't cover the use of open source technology. Starting Wednesday, the benefits changed to also cover things like the use of Hadoop, which is the backbone of Microsoft's Azure HDInsight product.

That means Microsoft will step in to defend its customers in the event that a patent troll or other firm goes after their use of Azure services, even if the issue at hand involves an open source component of the service they’re using.

In the event that an Azure customer faces a patent lawsuit over their technology, they can ask Microsoft for one of 10,000 patents that the company is making available for lawsuit defense as part of its patent pick program. The list of patents includes those from the U.S., as well as countries including Germany, Japan, and China.

Azure customers will be able to pick from such patents as "Honey Monkey network exploration" and "Secure recovery in a serverless distributed filesystem," assuming they meet the conditions of the program.

The program is only available for Azure customers who spend more than US$1,000 on their cloud bills with Microsoft every month. Furthermore, they must have been sued for patent infringement over their patent workloads, and can only use the patent they get to defend against a suit. Any customer who has sued a fellow Azure customer for patent infringement over their Azure workloads in the past two years is ineligible.

Microsoft will transfer the patent that a customer picks for them to hold in perpetuity, solely for the purposes of defending against patent infringement lawsuits. The company will charge a customer taking advantage of the patent pick program for the administrative costs for transferring the patent.

If one invention is covered by different patents in different countries, Microsoft will transfer the patent that’s relevant for the locale in which its customer is defending against a lawsuit.

In the event that Microsoft transfers some of its patents to a non-practicing entity in the future, Azure customers spending at least $1,000 per month on their cloud bills for the previous three months will be covered by a license to those patents.

The company said that it does not typically sell patents to non-practicing entities. This service basically serves as an extra bit of insurance for concerned Azure customers.

 

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