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.
News and Chronology
2004-03-11..12 BE Conference in Brussels 3. European Business summit - including Harney, Kober etc.
2004-09-02 US MS CEO: unlike Linux users, MS customers are shielded against patent risks (Ballmer at software industry meeting: "In the Linux world, nobody stands behind patent claims," he said, noting that Microsoft could be forced to swallow a $550 million judgement if it loses its ongoing case with Eolas Technologies Inc, but that its customers would be protected.)
2004-08-26 US NewsForge: Email Sender ID: The hype and the reality (--> Patents in Action, Sender ID)
2004-07-29 US Microsoft patents "organising photos based on time"
2003-02-20 MS SQL Server customers threatened by Timeline patents
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
2005-03 US Microsoft Brad Smith Call for patent reform
MS patent action
MS vs. Avery Lee: ASF Format, 2000 (German source)