Microsoft Corporation has announced a new web tool that lets anyone search their portfolio of 40,785 patents. This new tool is called Patent Tracker and it lets people search for Microsoft patents based on the number, title, country, and whether the patent is held by a subsidiary or the parent company. A CSV file with the entire list of parents can also be downloaded.
Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith said that the point of the tool is for transparency. Companies that are interested in creating a product can find out if they are going to illegally use one of Microsoft’s patents without permission easily through this tool.
“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,” stated Smith in a blog post.
Smith hopes that other patents holders will provide similar tools for their intellectual property so that it would curb the way that “patent trolls” abuse the system.
“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,” stated Smith in the blog post. “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.”
Although Microsoft preaches about how such a system would help prevent from the abuse of patents, the software giant utilizes their patent base to go after companies that manufacture Android devices. In fact, it was reported that Microsoft receives royalties from over 70% of the companies that build Android devices. These companies include Coby, Aluratek, HTC, LG, Samsung, TomTom, Amazon, Compal, and Velocity Micro.