The Role of IT in Economic Recovery: Competition and Collaboration

Posted by Horacio Gutierrez 
Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, Intellectual Property and Licensing

As the purveyor of hardware, software and services designed to help us all work more efficiently, the IT industry has a responsibility – now more than ever before – to help people and organizations get maximum value from their shrinking resources.

One way to do this is for IT companies to collaboratively develop computing solutions that enable different kinds of software and hardware to work together.  Customers tell us this is one of the most important things we can do to help them manage their IT costs and prioritize their investments.  This is particularly important for customers running “mixed source” IT operations that rely on both open source and proprietary software.

A cornerstone of collaboration is the sharing of information, ideas, and technologies – intellectual assets – to drive innovation. Yet, this sharing must be balanced with incentives for companies to continue creating new technology and their own differentiated products so we can maintain a marketplace that is rich with competition, opportunity and value.  This is true no matter the origin or the source of the technological innovation.  All information technology solutions – regardless of software development or business models – benefit from a balance between collaboration and competition.

How can we strike this balance? How can we create a market environment where companies are encouraged to collaborate on behalf of their customers and compete for customer attention and mindshare?  One answer is a set of sensible business arrangements that fosters collaborative innovation while also rewarding breakthrough, value-added product differentiation. 

At the heart of these business arrangements is an honest recognition of the value of the intellectual assets that drive innovation.  Such arrangements strike a balance between intellectual property incentives that encourage, recognize, and reward innovation, and practical mechanisms for sharing intellectual property that are responsible, accessible, and affordable.

At Microsoft, we have created many such business arrangements – more than 500 in just five years – through the licensing of our intellectual property to a wide range of companies from a variety of industries and geographies.  In fact, two new deals were announced last week.  One is a patent licensing agreement with Brother, a leading printer company, which includes IP coverage for devices running on Linux-based technologies.  The other is the licensing of Microsoft’s Exchange ActiveSync intellectual property to Google that will help G-mail customers better manage their data.

In the coming months, we will continue to forge such agreements and we call upon others to do the same.  Carefully crafted intellectual property licensing deals help all of our customers maximize their IT investments by making sure hardware and software work well together, and they facilitate the sharing of intellectual assets through pragmatic business agreements that drive greater innovation and value in the IT marketplace.  Finding creative ways to facilitate collaboration while encouraging innovation and enhancing product differentiation and competition is especially important now, so we can help people and organizations make the most of every dollar they earn. 

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