The Power of Patents in Humanitarian Applications

The following is a post from Horacio Gutierrez, Corporate Vice President and Deputy General Counsel at Microsoft.

Every day, Microsoft researchers push the envelope of computer science in research labs around the world. Their inventions tackle complex questions such as “How do we make uncertain information useful and infer valuable insights from shifting and expanding data as it streams in from devices, sensors and new technology?” We are proud that Infer.NET, one such invention developed in our research labs, has today been recognized with the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s first ever Patents for Humanity Award in the information technology category.

Microsoft researchers have been working on Infer.NET over the last 10 years to provide a framework that makes it much easier to apply advanced machine learning techniques to solve challenging problems. Microsoft provides Infer.NET free of charge for non-commercial purposes, such as scientific or medical research. Examples of joint research studies involving Infer.NET include:

· An asthma study to investigate the early indicators of severe asthma in children and to try to shed light on the environmental and genetic causes of asthma;

· Analysis of key parts of an individual’s DNA sequence to shed new light on how variations in our genetic makeup can make us susceptible to different diseases;

· An examination of how key drivers of forest dynamics, like the growth and mortality rates of different sized trees in different kinds of forests, vary across geographic space and from year to year, to improve understanding of the effects of climate change.

The power of Infer.NET is that it can accelerate our understanding of complex problems, such as those commonly found in health, biology and the environment, and allows Microsoft Research and scientists across the world to advance towards solutions even faster.

Powerful software that can interpret and make sense of the changing world around us requires an intensive and long-term investment in research. Microsoft is able to make these investments and provide innovations like Infer.NET free of charge for non-commercial activities because we can commercialize our most inventive discoveries. The strong patent protections in the United States are one of the contributing factors that have led to America’s global leadership in high tech, exploration and discovery.

We thank the USPTO for recognizing our Infer.NET technology and its humanitarian applications, and look forward to continuing to work with scientists and researchers to develop new computer science innovations that solve important real-life problems, delight customers and improve our understanding for the world.