Monday, April 1, 2013

Microsoft Lists All Patents on the Web - The Knowledge Trap

On March 28, 2013, Brad Smith, Microsoft's GC and Executive VP, Legal and Corporate Affairs, mentioned in Enhancing Transparency: Putting Microsoft's Patents on the Web that Microsoft has published information (e.g., patent number, title, and country) regarding all Microsoft owned patents on the Web. The actual content of the patent will be available through the US patent databases (e.g., USPTO, Google Patent Search, and Free Patents Online).

From Mr. Smith's post: "Today, we launched a “Patent Tracker” tool that provides a list of all of the patents Microsoft owns. Through the Patent Tracker, users can obtain the list in two forms: (1) an online list that is searchable by patent number, patent title, country and whether the patent is held by Microsoft or a subsidiary, and (2) a CSV file containing the entire list that is downloadable and searchable in Microsoft Excel. We took this approach so that people can come to our site if they want to run a quick search, but can also download the information if they want to perform deeper analysis. Above is a video providing additional information about the need for transparency and how to use the Patent Tracker.

We take this step today because we believe that all stakeholders of the U.S. patent system – private companies, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Congress and the courts – share responsibility for taking steps to improve its operation. Sensible improvements to the patent system, such as increasing transparency on patent ownership, will yield tangible outcomes that enhance American competitiveness, create jobs and foster growth in nearly every sector of the U.S. economy.

We urge other companies to join us in making available information about which patents they own. By doing so, they will help increase transparency, facilitate licensing, and help ensure that the patent system continues to fulfill its role in promoting and encouraging innovation."

Joff Wild of Intellectual Asset Management states Microsoft's aim to bring greater transparency to their holdings should be welcomed. And in my opinion, downloading a list with numbers, titles, and countries of 41,000 patents shouldn't translate into being imputed with knowledge of any given patent. However, what's logically next? If you review a relevant patent on the list as it may generate the need for a patent license or a opinion that the patent is not infringed or invalid. And if infringement is later found and the opinion is held incompetent, that knowledge increases the risk of willful infringement and  increased damages. This is suggested since In re Seagate Technology held establishing willful infringement requires the patent owner show (1) the infringer acted despite an objectively high likelihood its action constituted infringement; and (2) the risk was known or so obvious it should have been known.

Copyright © 2013 Robert Moll. All rights reserved.