Microsoft Adds New Intellectual Property Protections For Its Azure Cloud Services

By Victor Thomson , Feb 09, 2017 02:33 AM EST
Microsoft Azure customers get improved indemnity for possible patent transfer and open source use. (Photo : Microsoft Visual Studio / YouTube)

Microsoft is launching a new feature designed to help its Azure cloud customers getting additional shielding and better protection from intellectual property lawsuit threats.

Microsoft Azure Gets New Intellectual Property Protections

According to Talkin' Cloud, Microsoft Corp. will expand its coverage of related litigation costs and help cloud customers fend off patent lawsuits. This move comes as the high-tech company is seeking to distinguish its cloud services from rivals in the fast-growing internet-based computing market. The companies are increasingly becoming the target of lawsuits, as more of them host their applications and services on Microsoft's Azure.

According to Computerworld, the Azure Intellectual Property Advantage program provides several benefits for Microsoft's cloud services customers. Microsoft will indemnify all the customers using its Azure cloud services and products, including open source components, from intellectual property infringement claims. Customers that meet a certain set of criteria will be allowed by the company to have access to a "patent pick" program.

In order to help them with defending against an infringement suit, the "patent pick" program will allow Azure cloud customers to transfer one Microsoft patent from a list of 10,000. Eligible Azure customers will also get a license in the event Microsoft would transfer its patents to a non-practicing entity. By giving companies extra peace of mind, the entire intellectual property protection system is intended to ease the transition to the cloud.

At the moment, there are not many lawsuits over intellectual property relating to open source technology in the cloud. However, as Microsoft President Brad Smith pointed out, in the past five years the frequency of cloud-based intellectual property lawsuits rose to 22 percent. According to him, an insurance policy is useful even if today, to most independent software vendors and enterprise IT shops, this is something that seems remote.

How This Move Could Help Microsoft

In a crowded cloud market, Microsoft's intellectual property benefits could help the company stand out. While it competes with Amazon Web Services, IBM, and Google, the company has tried to position its cloud services as the friendliest platform for enterprises. Microsoft's new move could prevent a potential cloud intellectual property lawsuit problem before it becomes a bigger issue.

Some companies that are evaluating the cloud could also take advantage of the new Microsoft intellectual property protection for its Azure platform. Smaller independent software vendors that plan to build a SaaS-based offering on a public cloud can overcome now their concerns about adopting open source frameworks for strategic applications. Companies that are worried about eventual intellectual property lawsuits targeting their cloud workloads can accelerate now their cloud lock-in thanks to Microsoft's move.

For Microsoft, this is also a way to keep its Azure cloud customers. Companies would leave their coverage behind if they leave Microsoft's cloud, as these protections only apply to applications running in Microsoft Azure. The coverage does not apply to companies operating in a multi-cloud configuration as well.

Previously, Microsoft already offered indemnification to its customers from intellectual property lawsuits that were resulting from the use of company's services. However, the indemnification offered did not cover the use of open source technology. Starting Wednesday, Feb. 8, the benefits changed to also cover open source apps such as Hadoop, the backbone of Microsoft's Azure HDInsight product. In the event that a patent issue involves their use of Azure services, Microsoft will step in to defend its customers.

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