Enhancing Transparency: Putting Microsoft’s Patents on the Web

Last month at an event on Capitol Hill, Microsoft pledged to put information on the Web that would enable anyone to determine for which patents we are the real party in interest.

As I mentioned in my blog post about the event, transparency regarding patent ownership is an important part of a well-functioning patent system. One of the fundamental objectives of the patent system is to provide notice regarding inventions – not only the nature of what has been invented but who owns the patent.

Transparency around patent ownership will help prevent gamesmanship by companies that seek to lie in wait and “hold up” companies rather than enable a well-functioning secondary market. Of equal importance, transparency is a prerequisite to enforceability of patent licensing pledges, whether to standards bodies or to the world at large. Quite simply, without transparency it is impossible to determine if a company is in fact abiding by those commitments.

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.

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