Microsoft has announced and intention to take on patent trolls head-on, with a scheme it's calling "the industry's most comprehensive protection against intellectual property risks".
This will be applied to Microsoft Azure, and any open source technology that powers Azure services.
The service, according to Microsoft, has been introduced in order to combat the "emerging barrier" of "the threat of baseless lawsuits by aggressive companies targeting innovators" as the cloud remains a fertile space for new products and services.
Microsoft sees the Microsoft Azure IP Advantage program taking three main forms. The first is application of the firm's "best-in-industry" intellectual property protection with "uncapped indemnification coverage" now bolstered by covering "any open source technology that powers Microsoft Azure services", with Hadoop given as a specific example.
Secondly, Microsoft is falling back on its patent portfolio of "10,000" separate patents. The company is offering these up to Azure customers to enable them to "better defend themselves against patent lawsuits against their services that run on top of Azure".
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Microsoft is "pledging" to Azure customers that if it transfers patents "in the future to non-practicing entities" - i.e. what's come to be known as a "patent troll" who just sits on a patent with no intention of developing it - these patents cannot be asserted against an Azure customer.
Microsoft even managed to get a customer - Toyota connected company president Shigeki Tomoyama - to comment on the new programme:
"With Azure IP Advantage we can operate and innovate more freely in the cloud while reducing our IP risk. Microsoft is uniquely able to provide such a comprehensive patent offering," said Tomoyama.
Naturally, only time will tell how necessary such specific patent protection of Azure customers will prove, but hats off to Microsoft for presenting something so en vogue with the fears of our times, at least.With barely a week going by without a high profile patent row, a vendor sticking its head above the parapet with such a high profile push on patent protection can at the worst cause others to follow suit.
AlphaBay users had flocked to Hansa after it was closed down - not realising it had already been taken over by Dutch police
Microsoft closes in on $100bn annual revenues with sales weighing-in at $23.3bn
Moves to take down cyber-squatted domains reveals Fancy Bear hacking network, claims Microsoft
Intel claims 'world first' in artificial intelligence that can be plugged-in almost anywhere