Microsoft Now Holds 10,000 Patents

Microsoft is marking on Tuesday the recent awarding of its 10,000 US patent, granted for its surface computing technology.

U.S. Patent No. 7,479,950 outlines how users can place objects, ranging from cell phones to fingers, on the surface computer's table-like display and the computer will identify the objects and track their position, orientation, and motion, Microsoft said. This allows objects to be associated with data or media, such as a collection of music or photos.

Microsoft was granted 2,000 patents in 2008, ranking it fourth among companies receiving US patents, Microsoft said. The company spends about US$8 billion a year on research and development.

"Most technology companies, Microsoft included, have been increasing their emphasis on IP in recent years, trying to derive greater business value from their intellectual assets," said Bart Eppenauer, chief patent counsel for Microsoft, in a statement released by the company.

Patents had been thought of as clubs to be used in court against competitors, Microsoft said. But now, patents and IP are "serving as bridges to collaboration through licensing and other technology collaboration," Eppenauer said.

The company in 2003 began a commitment to broaden IP licensing efforts and has since signed more than 500 licensing agreements with companies of all sizes and types, Microsoft said. The company's 2006 IP agreement with Novell, though, has been a controversial one, raising ire in the Linux community over whether Novell made too big a concession to Microsoft over Linux IP issues.

[ Foran updated look at this controversial deal, see: The Microsoft-Novell Linux deal: Two years later ]

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