Why Microsoft is Giving Away Patented Software

Surprisingly, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) is giving away tens of thousands of pieces of patented software.

Microsoft will offer developers’ access to over 60,000 software patents through the Open Invention Network (OIN), It’s Floss reports. To explain, the OIN is an alliance of companies that make Linux applications available.

Developers could to add many Microsoft-owned features or apps to their programs and platforms for free. Importantly, Microsoft will not sue you if you use patented software from OIN.

Thus, Microsoft is making Windows an open-sourced software platform like Linux. To clarify, open-sourced software is free and legally available for use. Moreover, Microsoft is far from alone big companies like Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOG), IBM (NYSE: IBM), and Sony are part of the OIN.

Here’s why Microsoft is Giving Away Patented Software

There are several excellent reasons for Microsoft to giveaway software through the OIN. Motivations for Microsoft’s participation in the OIN include:

  • Reduced legal costs. Microsoft will no longer have to pay attorneys hundreds of dollars an hour to sue developers.

 

  • Reducing the risks from poorly made bootleg software. People will no longer have an incentive to produce cheap; and often defective, copies of Microsoft products.

  • Protecting Microsoft’s image. Microsoft gets blamed for lousy versions of its software it did not create.

 

  • Eliminate bootlegging. The fastest and easiest way to eliminate bootlegging of software is to make it unprofitable. Nobody will pay for bootlegged stuff if the real deal is available at OIN for free.

 

  • Enhance security. Hackers often use bootleg software to spread malware. Moreover, malware is often designed to attack older less secure Microsoft products.

 

  • For example in May 2017 the Wannacry Ransomware disrupted operations at Britain’s National Health Service (NHS). Wannacry got in because the NHS was using outdated versions of Windows. To explain, the old Windows lacks state-of-the-art security measures.

 

  • Reducing the need to service older Microsoft product. Independent developers will create security solutions and fixes for older versions of Windows using the OIN patents.

 

  • Therefore, Microsoft will not have to go back and fix such solutions.

  • Maintaining control. When developers copy software Microsoft has no control. With OIN, Microsoft has some control which is always better than no control.

 

  • Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) can easily afford it. On June 30, 2018, Microsoft Corp reported a gross profit of $20.343 billion on 2nd Quarter revenues of $30.085 billion. Therefore, Microsoft can afford to give away patents.

Will Microsoft Giveaway Patented Software Through GitHub?

 

  • Microsoft could distribute the software through GitHub; which it purchased for $7.5 billion in June. Notably, the OIN announcement came right before the European Commission approved the GitHub deal. To explain, Microsoft needs Commission approval to operate GitHub in the European Union.

  • GitHub is the perfect place to distribute the OIN patents because it is the world’s largest open-sourced software repository. In detail, GitHub serves 1.8 million organizations and 28 million software developers.

 

  • Unfortunately, news articles do not say which software will be released on GitHub.

 

Are Patents Dead?

I have to wonder if the traditional patent system is dead. What use are patents if big companies like Microsoft can ignore them?

If patents work as advertised why is Microsoft going open sourced and operating GitHub? Microsoft’s management apparently believes the patent system is broken beyond repair.

To explain, a combination of intellectual property theft and open-sourced technology has made patents unworkable. Therefore, Microsoft is trying to maintain some control over its technology.

Why Microsoft is abandoning Patents

Some control; which is what Microsoft gets from OIN and GitHub, is better than no control. Microsoft has no control over bootleggers and property thieves.

Patents failed Microsoft because they gave it a limited amount of control. Only time will tell if going open source will give Microsoft the control it needs.

In the final analysis, Linux might have killed patents. Therefore, we live in a brave new world in which all technical information is open sourced.