Microsoft, Panasonic Announce Patent Cross-Licensing Agreement

By Nicholas Kolakowski  |  Posted 2010-02-25 Print this article Print

Microsoft and Panasonic announced an agreement that would give the electronics maker access to Microsoft's Extended File Allocation Table technology, which allows consumer electronic devices to manage larger files. In addition, Panasonic also obtained a patent license for FAT32 long file name technology. Microsoft originally launched its exFAT licensing program in December 2009. A more generalized IP licensing program, started in 2003, has seen Microsoft enter into more than 600 licensing agreements with companies ranging from Apple to Hewlett-Packard.

Microsoft and Panasonic announced an intellectual property licensing agreement Feb. 25 that will give the latter access to Microsoft's exFAT (Extended File Allocation Table) technology. In theory, Panasonic will be able to leverage exFAT, which allows flash memory devices to manage larger files, into a variety of consumer electronic devices.

"Microsoft's exFAT file system technology is designed to enhance multimedia experiences for consumers, which is especially important as televisions and other consumer electronic devices are moving far beyond traditional media content," David Kaefer, general manager of Intellectual Property Licensing at Microsoft, wrote in a statement. "This agreement with Panasonic is the most recent example of our commitment to licensing cutting-edge intellectual property to drive innovation across the industry."

Microsoft originally launched its exFAT licensing program in December 2009, entering into agreements with companies ranging from Olympus to Sanyo. Besides being able to better handle larger audio-video files, exFAT technology can be leveraged for facilitated data interchange between portable devices and PCs. In addition, Panasonic also obtained a patent license for FAT32 long file name technology.

Since launching its IP licensing program in 2003, Microsoft has entered more than 600 licensing agreements with other companies ranging from Apple and Hewlett-Packard to LG Electronics and Nikon. On Feb. 22, Microsoft announced that it had entered an agreement with for widespread access to each others' patent portfolios.

Amazon apparently agreed to pay Microsoft for the mutual access to patents covering a wide range of technology, notably Amazon's Kindle e-reader. Actual financial terms, however, were not disclosed.

"We are pleased to have entered into this patent license agreement with," Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft's corporate vice president and deputy general counsel for IP (intellectual property), wrote in a Feb. 22 statement. "Microsoft's patent portfolio is the largest and strongest in the software industry, and this agreement demonstrates our mutual respect for intellectual property as well as our ability to reach pragmatic solutions to IP issues regardless of whether proprietary or open-source software is involved."

Microsoft was awarded 2,906 patents in 2009, according to IFI Patent Intelligence, as the company makes forays into new areas such as tablet technology.

By granting patent licenses to each other through cross-licensing agreements, companies can create stronger partnerships and perhaps evade some of the patent-infringement lawsuits that occasionally plague the industry. Apple and Nokia, for example, are involved in such a battle, with Apple claiming in January that nine of its patents had been violated by certain Nokia mobile devices. 

Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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