April 5, 2018 // 10:36 a.m.
Microsoft president Brad Smith has taken the wraps off a new initiative dubbed 'Shared Innovation', under which the company aims to salve concerns from its partners about who retains what rights to intellectual property.
'Every company today is becoming in part a software company – we see this every day at Microsoft,' said Smith of his company's new initiative in an announcement post published late yesterday. 'That’s why today we are announcing Microsoft’s Shared Innovation Initiative. It is based on a set of principles designed to address co-created technology and intellectual property (IP) issues that give customers clarity and confidence regarding their work with Microsoft. The initiative is designed to strike a healthy balance that will both help our customers grow their business through technology and enable Microsoft to continue to improve its platform products.'
The heart of the initiative is seven 'Shared Innovation Principles', drawing in part from similar initiatives launched around the Windows platform, privacy, and cloud computing: respect for ownership of existing technology; assuring customer ownership of new patents and design rights; support for open source licensing new IP rights back to Microsoft; software portability; transparency and clarity; and learning and improvement.
Under these principles, Smith claims, Microsoft will respect ownership of the intellectual property its partners bring to the table, and allow partners to own any improvements that are made under collaboration. Smith also promises that his company will cooperate with patent applications, assigning its customers all rights, titles, and interest in any patents resulting from partnerships, and will allow partners and customers to release any code created under partnership using a permissive free software or open source licence. Smith has also promised that Microsoft will make no efforts to prevent shared innovations from being ported to rival, non-Microsoft platforms.
The principles aren't entirely one-sided, however: A key feature of the initiative is that Microsoft will automatically receive a patent licence and design rights for any new technology created under partnership, though the relevant principle includes the disclaimer that such licence will be limited to use in improving the company's own platforms - including its Azure cloud computing, Xbox gaming, and Windows operating system platforms.
'We believe this initiative and these principles offer a path that will ensure that the co-creation of digital technologies creates new economic value to companies throughout the economy and around the world, rather than for just a few select companies in the tech sector. And of course, it’s a path that we believe will enable Microsoft to continue to grow as well. In short, it strikes a balance where we and our customers can each focus on what we do best, working together with trust and confidence that we will help each other become more successful.'