Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Amazon Web Services Agreement's Intellectual Property Non-Assert Clause

Reading a cloud service provider contract is no fun. It is typically written in hyper-technical legalese, tiny font, and long convoluted sentences. And this style helps cloud service providers structure customer relationships to their advantage in surprising ways. How many of us are willing to slug through the fine print? Maybe this is the point since the service provider can remind a customer to not forget "our agreement" when a dispute arises leading to the customer read the "agreement" for the first time too late.

Amazon Web Services is a popular service for software startups, but the customer agreement appears to have some IP issues. In Beware the IP non-assert clause in AWS cloud service agreement, warns ex-Microsoft patent chief, Joff Wild flags a problematic non-assert clause in the standard Amazon Web Services (AWS) customer agreement. It states "during and after the Term, you will not assert, nor will you authorize, assist, or encourage any third party to assert, against us or any of our affiliates, customers, vendors, business partners, or licensors, any patent infringement or other intellectual property infringement claim regarding any Service Offerings you have used" (Section 8.5). Aren't many of us customers of Amazon? If so are we shielded from patent infringement for any AWS service used?

As noted by Joff Wild, the non-assert clause appears to be way too broad. And now we will see how it is interpreted by a court, because Amazon seeks to dismiss a patent infringement suit based on the AWS customer agreement. For details see Todd Bishop of GeekWire's article Amazon fights patent suit using little-noticed clause in standard AWS customer agreement.

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