UPDATED 16:09 EDT / MARCH 28 2019

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Microsoft to shield startups and IoT developers from patent trolls

Microsoft Corp. today launched an initiative to provide legal protection against so-called patent trolls for startups, as well as for larger companies that use its Azure cloud platform to power “internet of things” projects.

Patent trolls, or nonpracticing entities as they’re formally known, are an oft-discussed concern in the tech industry. They’re firms whose business model is to acquire technology patents and use them to launch lawsuits against other companies. Such litigation poses a particularly big threat for startups, which often don’t have the resources to engage in a prolonged legal battle.

Microsoft’s new push to mitigate this phenomenon has two main elements. First, the company is donating 500 patents to the LOT Network, an industry body dedicated to combating patent trolls. The group is made up of several hundred tech firms that share their intellectual property with one another to provide a legal shield against intellectual property. Membership is free for startups with annual revenues of less than $25 million.

In addition to providing access to the donated patents, Microsoft will enable startups in the LOT Network to acquire up three of them at no charge. In conjunction, the company is expanding own internal Azure IP Advantage program to provide stronger protection against patent trolls for cloud customers.

The program offers access to 10,000 Microsoft patents for firms that use Azure to power connected devices such as industrial sensors. Eligibility also extends to organizations that operate devices powered by Windows 10 IoT or Azure Sphere, two operating systems that Microsoft has created for small, low-power systems. Customers that use both the software and Azure cloud services will also receive “uncapped” indemnification for losses related to patent troll lawsuits.

Microsoft’s move to broaden the legal protection it provides for its ecosystem comes six months after the company joined the Open Invention Network, which has a similar focus as the LOT Network. The technology giant pledged to make the bulk of its 60,000-plus patent portfolio accessible to the group’s 2,600 members for free.  

Photo: Tama66/Pixabay

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