Microsoft awarded 10,000th U.S. patent

Microsoft awarded 10,000th U.S. patent

Summary: The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has awarded Microsoft its 10,000th U.

TOPICS: Microsoft, Legal

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has awarded Microsoft its 10,000th U.S. patent for surface computing technology.

The invention, U.S. Patent No. 7,479,950, outlines how users can place real objects — anything from cell phones to their own fingers — on the computer's tablelike display and the computer will automatically identify the objects and track their position, orientation and motion. (This allows the objects to be associated with data or media, like a specific collection of music or photos.)

Ironically, two of the inventors from the 10,000th patent — Curtis Wong and Steven Drucker — were also co-inventors of Microsoft's 5,000th patent, issued in 2006.

Microsoft currently ranks fourth among companies receiving the most U.S. patents, with just over 2,000 patents in 2008. The company spends about $8 billion a year on R&D, more than any other company in the industry.

"Most technology companies, Microsoft included, have been increasing their emphasis on IP in recent years, trying to derive greater business value from their intellectual assets," said Bart Eppenauer, chief patent counsel, in a press release. "One way to value a patent portfolio is to look at the quantity of patents it contains. Another way is to look at the influence the portfolio has on others."

In December 2008, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) ranked Microsoft's patent portfolio first in terms of its power and influence for the second year in a row, not just among software companies, but across all industries. One of the main indicators the IEEE looks at to determine "Patent Power" is how often a company's patents are cited as prior art in other companies' patent applications.

Interestingly, Microsoft's most-cited patent is U.S. patent no. 5,774,668, titled succinctly "System for on-line service in which gateway computer uses service map which includes loading condition of servers broadcasted by application servers for load balancing." It was issued on June 30, 1998, and has been cited 302 times.

Topics: Microsoft, Legal

Andrew Nusca

About Andrew Nusca

Andrew Nusca is a former writer-editor for ZDNet and contributor to CNET. During his tenure, he was the editor of SmartPlanet, ZDNet's sister site about innovation.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Microsoft is the #1 most influential innovator!

    [i]In December 2008, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) ranked Microsoft?s patent portfolio first in terms of its power and influence for the second year in a row, not just among software companies, but across all industries.[/i]

    Suck on that Apple. :)
    • must be smoking some good weed

      M$ patents are obvious ideeas that have been arround for some time.
      Linux Geek
      • Not really, but Apple's is

        Apple patents very very obvious stuff like their recent patent for a removable battery - hmm... we haven't had any of those, like ever.
        General C#
        • Not to mention the concept of the touch screen

          Seriously, Apple filed a patent that could apply to pretty much every concievable form of touch screen, and the patent office just gave it to them. No word on weather or not Apple is planning to sue ATM's for patent infringement soon.
    • Zealot.... sure have a thing for Apple now.
    • Not quite right.

      Microsoft is the most flatulent.
  • RE: Microsoft awarded 10,000th U.S. patent

    • Great for who? (nt)

  • I expect

    that this article is merely a set up for the next article that will accuse Linux of violating 10,000 of MS's patents. ;)

    Seriously though, are all 10,000 still valid, or have any expired?
    Michael Kelly
  • Microsoft Patent 10,001

    A method for applying two digits from one hand and a single digit from the other in concert to the keyboard to facilitate a much broader range of input on a standard keyboard.
  • The patent system sucks, and should be scrapped!

    I've heard all of the old arguments of how owners of intellectual property should be given the opportunity to monetize their innovations - baloney.

    The patent system is nothing more than anti-competitive. It forces other companies to reinvent the wheel or completely locks them out of the market creating a "monopoly". I believe that the only reward for innovation should be the first to market.

    Imagine a day when there is no monetary system, and innovators innovate for the sake of innovation and contribute to the community. That day can't come soon enough.
    General C#
    • well - not completely

      Patents do serve some valuable purpose in protecting the innovative ideas of one who may be "undercapitalized for bringing a product to market in a Big_Way" from being rolled over by a highly-capitalized entity that can take the idea from the inventor and "buying-up the retail shelfspace" so that only the highly-capitalized entity's product has significant market-share.
      I do believe, though, that the time-periods for which patents are currently granted are much too long ( same goes for copyrights too ).
      10 years should be long enuf to ensure a reasonable return for the innovative energy expended. Then, all patented ideas should become the common property of the national citizenry that provided for the protected environment that allowed it to be created.
      Ten years after that it should be open to all, everywhere in the world.
    • The patent system in US is rubbish

      I get the impression that if Microsoft put some words on a piece of paper and send it to the Patent Office another patent will be granted. The patent system in Europe is only slightly better.
      Patents were originally for inventions of a really novel nature and normal development in any field was not patentable. Only when that standard is the norm will patents cease to be a burden on industry and reward and encourage true innovation.
  • Irony?

    "Ironically, two of the inventors from the 10,000th patent ? Curtis Wong and Steven Drucker ? were also co-inventors of Microsoft?s 5,000th patent, issued in 2006."

    Actually, that's not at all ironic. Coincidental, perhaps.
    • Indeed (nt)

  • RE: Microsoft awarded 10,000th U.S. patent

    Just shows that M$ has as many lawyers as Indian programmers.

  • Think about it...

    Besides patents often, clearly, being used primarily as weapons against competition...

    Now, the U.S. patent system, itself, was just completely altered... after two-hundred years... into a "First to File" system, whereby filing "first", actually, supersedes actual, provable, invention (or, potentially even, actual use), thereby allowing whomever files "first" to effectively claim ownership (and exclusive use) of virtually any concept.

    So, now, big-money interests can simply file unlimited numbers of patents (on virtually any concept)... and commandeer it [the engineering approach] long as the idea hasn't been previously "patented" ...and, thereby prevent competitors from utilizing, even basic (or obvious to other designers) concepts. And, the only real "safeguard" against such "prior-art", "trivial", or "obvious" concepts being patented (since the U.S. Patent Office has, so clearly, utterly failed to be able to effectively police such bogus-patent applications)... is a waiting period of around eighteen months for legal challenges to such patents. This means that all a company actually has to do (to acquire exclusive-ownership of a design, or fundamental concept)... is wait-out the -probation- period, before demanding enforcement of the patent.

    All of this was supposedly done to bring the U.S. in-line with patent systems through-out the rest of the world. However, most of the industrialized world (those who already have "First-to-File" systems) actually, quite specifically, generally dis-allow "software patents". But, guess who was one of the biggest proponents of "First-to-File patents" in the United States (which, anomalously, also includes "software patents")..? That's right... it was Microsoft (who, most acknowledge, files many, many, highly-dubious patents every year, -AND- has a long, well-documented, history of deceptive, unethical, and even illegal, market-manipulation and anti-competitive activities).

    And now, Microsoft is actually one of the most prolific patent-filers in the U.S.. So, how do you think Microsoft's (non-cross-licensed) competitors (cough... cough... Linux) are going to fare, now?

    This would be fascinating... even funny... if it weren't so sad.
    Gayle Edwards