Microsoft to aid Azure customers in taking on patent trolls

Microsoft's new Azure IP Advantage program is providing Microsoft cloud users with access to 10,000 Microsoft patents to help them fight 'baseless patent lawsuits.'

Microsoft is introducing a new program called Azure IP Advantage, which it is touting as a way to protect users against "intellectual property risks in the cloud."

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The company plans to make 10,000 Microsoft patents available to Azure customers to help them defend themselves against "baseless patent lawsuits," in Microsoft officials' words. And if the company ever transfers a patent to a non-practicing entity, that patent cannot be asserted against the customer. (This is called a "springing license," in Microsoft's description of the program.)

The 10,000 patents Microsoft is offering is a subset of the 60,000 patents Microsoft owned as of February 8, 2017, according the company. Currently, Microsoft lists 7,500 patents available as part of the "patent pick" benefit, with 2,500 to be added in the next few months.

Microsoft already offers uncapped indemnification coverage to its cloud customers. With the new Azure IP plan, it also will cover any open source technology powering Azure services, such as Azure HD Insight, which is built on top of Hadoop.months, according to officials.

All Azure customers will be automatically covered by Azure IP Advantage. There's no sign-up process. Defense and indemnity are already included in standard customer terms. However, the patent pick and springing license benefits have eligibility terms.

For the "patent pick," users must have Azure usage of $1,000 per month over the past three months; have not filed a patent infringement lawsuit against another Azure customer for their Azure workloads in the last two years; and show evidence of a current patent litigation that occurred after February 8, 2017. "Legal transactional costs apply," according to the fine print.

For springing license eligibility, users must have an Azure usage of $1,000 USD per month over the past three months.

In a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document about the Azure IP Advantage program, Microsoft officials said they are offering this program because Microsoft "believe(s) that customers value partners who understand their business needs and are committed to helping them anticipate and address risks rather than taking their rights away."

"New IP risks emerge as businesses transform and drive more cloud usage. If you run services in the cloud or plan to do so in the future, you should consider your strategy for addressing IP infringement risk and choose a cloud platform partner that understands these risks and has a comprehensive plan to help you address them," the FAQ added.

The Seattle Times noted that "Microsoft decided to expand its indemnification policy following cases in which financial institutions asked Microsoft for help defending against patent lawsuits related to work on Azure,"

Azure IP Advantage is available everywhere Microsoft does business except China at the current time, the FAQ says.

Microsoft is building a 'world graph' for geographic data:

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