Microsoft Pursues Cross-Licensing Deals

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2005-01-10

Microsoft Pursues Cross-Licensing Deals

As Microsoft Corp. pursues its goal of signing cross-licensing agreements with the approximately 40 global companies that hold the most technology patents, it is also entering into similar agreements with other smaller but strategic partners.

It is just more than a year since the Redmond, Wash., software company announced its plans to more widely license its intellectual property, and its now engaged in several cross-licensing agreement discussions with software, hardware, digital media and telecommunications companies in the United States, Europe and Asia.

David Kaefer, Microsofts director of intellectual property licensing, told eWEEK that his goal was to sign cross-licensing agreements with the 30 to 40 global companies that hold most of the technology patents.

"Thats our goal for the next five years," Kaefer said, adding that such relationships will encourage more development freedom and technical standardization and improve relationships and alliances.

Microsofts latest cross-licensing agreements came last month with Autodesk Inc. and Citrix Systems Inc.

Autodesk and Microsoft entered into a cross-licensing pact that gives both companies access to a broad range of each others patent portfolios in a move that should allow each company to broaden its product offerings.

The deal promotes the exchange and implementation of patented technologies in many areas, including data management, collaboration, design, digital effects, digital rights management, project management, CAD and location-based services.

Click here to read more about Microsofts deal with Autodesk.

Kaefer said the deal continues the momentum following similar agreements with SAP AG in May and Cisco Systems Inc. in October. "Autodesk and Microsoft have worked together for many years," he said. "Autodesk is one of Microsofts most successful ISV partners and is very involved in many of our beta programs. Until now, we have had a very rich technical collaboration relationship with them, but we have not had a patent cross-licensing agreement with them until now."

Autodesk specializes in CAD with its flagship AutoCAD product. "Certainly their graphics [technology] is of mutual interest to us. That was a rich area for us, and we will be licensing one anothers designs so that we can both move forward in that space," Kaefer said.

Next Page: A mutually beneficial relationship.

A mutually beneficial relationship

The deal does not signify any product strategy changes for the companies, Kaefer said. It merely reflects the reality of the need for these types of business arrangements.

"If you think about what we are doing in the Xbox area—for example, video games—there is no doubt that Autodesks leadership in 3-D [three-dimensional] graphics rendering has some value for some things we want to do," Kaefer said. "That also carries through to other product lines, like when we think about Longhorn and some of the graphical user interface types of experiences wed like to see there." Marcia Sterling, a senior vice president at Autodesk, in San Rafael, Calif., said the company is committed to pursuing technologies that improve its products and services.

"Many Microsoft and Autodesk products are already tightly integrated. We share many joint customers, and were pleased to expand this mutually beneficial relationship," Sterling said.

Also last month, Microsoft and Citrix, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., announced a five-year agreement that includes a new technology collaboration pact to enhance the overall extensibility of Windows Terminal Server, the formalization of Citrixs continued access to Microsoft Windows Server source code and patent cross-licensing between the two companies.

The agreement opens the door for further improvements in the Citrix MetaFrame Access Suite, which runs on Windows Terminal Server, providing customers with enhanced collaboration to achieve the continuity necessary to migrate to MetaFrame Presentation Server on the next version of Windows Server. That server software is expected to be released in 2007.

"Improved integration with Microsofts server operating systems will help us deliver solutions that are simpler to implement and manage and will provide a smooth migration path for our mutual customers," said Mark Templeton, president and CEO of Citrix.

The agreement expands the collaboration between the two companies, which started in 1997 when Citrix licensed components of its technology to Microsoft as the base for Terminal Server functionality.

Microsofts Kaefer riled many members of the open-source and Linux communities in November when he said he believed that all Linux and open-source software developers would over time be forced to license intellectual property from other vendors, regardless of how complicated it may be to execute under the GPL (GNU General Public License).

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