Microsoft Azure will now offer customers protection against patent trolling, via Redmond’s considerable collection of 10,000 legal patents.
The practice of patent trolling has become an industry hazard for startups in the last fifteen years, with companies forming solely for the purpose of exploiting obscure or difficult-to-research patents which may overlap with the IP of startups.
As of today, Azure is offering ‘uncapped indemnification coverage’, including coverage against open-source implementations of entities such as Hadoop, which forms the basis of Azure’s HD Insight product.
According to the release, Microsoft will make available to Azure clients 10,000 patents that it owns with a view towards warding off patent lawsuits for software which runs on Azure. It is also promising that future transfer patents will never result in action against clients who take advantage of the scheme.
Microsoft quotes a report from Boston consulting group which estimates a 22% rise in IP lawsuits relating to cloud products over the last five years in the U.S. alone. It also observes that non-practicing entities have increased their spending on cloud patents by 35% over the same period of time.
The facility is intended primarily to help technology exponents who may have relevant patent cover in their own field of work (such as autonomous vehicles) but who could become vulnerable by extending their reach into cloud and app-based products.
Microsoft corporate vice president Julia White commented in an interview: “They haven’t had years to build up that patent portfolio,” and continued, “Cloud innovation is far too important to be stifled by lawsuits.”
Compliance website Inside Counsel suggested in 2014 that the labyrinthine nursery of academic and research patents which lead to cloud innovations has made it easier for trolling companies to pick up easy patent properties from cash-strapped universities with a view to future exploitation, and that the widespread diffusion of popular high-level open-source projects such as OpenStack have left enough potential actionable IP vulnerabilities to make speculative litigation worthwhile as a new industry standard.