Microsoft has been making moves on the licensing front and accommodations with open source, such as its controversial 2006 agreement with Novell pertaining to Suse Linux. Looking to elaborate on Microsoft's activities, Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft vice president and deputy general counsel for Intellectual Property and Licensing, met last week with InfoWorld Editor at Large Paul Krill at InfoWorld offices in San Francisco. Companies today, Gutierrez said, have become "mixed source" ventures rather than the world being divided up between open source and proprietary.
InfoWorld: What's happening as far as licensing at Microsoft?
Gutierrez: A lot is happening. This December we will celebrate the fifth anniversary of a significant shift in Microsoft's approach to licensing. In December of 2003 we changed our patent licensing policy to declare that Microsoft was open for business. That is, Microsoft would be willing to license any of its patents to any third party, including competitors, on commercially reasonable terms. That was a significant shift at that time, but over the last five years we've actually been able to see in practice the benefits of that shift. For example, we've signed over 500 licensing agreements in the last five years, from very broad patent cross-license agreements with some of the biggest companies in the technology world to very focused outbound technology licenses to startup companies in China or Europe or the U.S., taking advantage of some of the innovations coming out of the research labs. So [we have] quite a significant track record of licensing, especially if you take into account the kinds of relationships and collaborations that weve been able to do on the basis of those IP licensing deals.
InfoWorld: So it was a shift in licensing. What was the before and after?
Gutierrez: The before I think was and continues to be that most companies look at their IP portfolio as an asset that they want to hoard. That plays a very protective role or that springs into action for defensive purposes when they get sued. We choose to look at our portfolio as a tool that we use in order to help bring about the business objectives that the company has. We've learned over the last five years that using the portfolio to enable deep interoperability collaboration discussions, for example, is one of the clearest ways in which we can bring value and we've had a whole range of successes in that area. I think the most significant one, and perhaps the most surprising one to most people, is the track record in our collaboration with Novell where we've created an interoperability laboratory in Cambridge, Mass. We've expanded even our collaboration beyond what the original scope of the collaboration was by adding collaborations in accessibility, interoperability technologies, document format, interoperability, the Moonlight plug-in [for] Silverlight for the Linux platform, and a number of other collaborations.