Microsoft Becomes Open Book, Launches Patent Search

Microsoft on Thursday launched a Web site enabling anyone to search through the thousands of patents the company owns. The move reflects a movement in the online advertising industry to become more "transparent" about everything companies do, from patents and ad targeting techniques to data collected from consumers across the Web.

By April 1, Microsoft said it will publish all the information anyone needs related to the company's patents through the tool called Patent Tracker. The site also lets you download the entire list of patents listing number, item, region, and more, as well as search for trademarks, copyright, IP Licensing, Licensing Terms, Terms of Use and Privacy.

"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," wrote Brad Smith, general counsel and executive vice president of legal and corporate affairs at Microsoft, in a blog post. "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."

Aside from listing its own patents, Microsoft also lists those from companies with an ownership interest of greater than 50% in a company when the name appears on the patent, either through equity ownership or non-equity interests that provide a controlling voting right.

There's been an ongoing war between Microsoft and Google as it related to patents. The most recent involves the Xbox entertainment console and how communication gets established between the Xbox console and its accessories, such as the wireless technology.

Motorola Mobility filed the complaint to the International Trade Commission in 2010, when the mobile company learned Microsoft wanted royalties for smartphones running Google's Android operating system. A preliminary decision found Microsoft did not infringe on Motorola patents.

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