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While in 1991 Bill Gates said in an internal memorandum that patents could bring the whole industry to a standstill and allow bigger players to crush smaller ones, already in 1994 Microsoft lobbied for software patents and was in fact at the time the only one of the large US software companies to do so. In 1999 Microsoft papers looked for ways to "deny open source software access to the market", and patenting was found to be one of two major ways to achieve this goal. In the following years Microsoft became the most prolific patenting software company. In 2003 they hired a prior IBM patent strategist to develop a licensing policy so as to systematically tax the software industry and exclude opensource software. In 2004, Microsoft heavily lobbied the European Parliament for software patentability, but appears to have relied mostly on frontend organisations such as BSA, Comptia, BVDW.de as well as lobbying firms such as Pleon and Campaign for Creativity.

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Outline

Microsoft has been continuously building an ambitious patent portfolio licensing (= fee collection) program. By being deliberately "reasonable and non-discriminatory" in licensing out its patents, Microsoft is maximising the impact on free/opensource software, which is inevitably excluded from any licensing scheme, be it based on per-copy fee collection or on collection of lumpsum fees or both.

As of 27 March 2006, the EPO publishes 2235 distinct patent family applications (patent state not searchable at the EPO web site). The number of published patent applications worldwide on the EPO web site is 18321.

Microsoft damaged by software patents

EOLAS vs. MS

521 mn usd

SPX vs. MS

60 mn usd

MS patent action

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