December 2, 2003 2:57 PM PST

Microsoft to license some intellectual property

Microsoft plans on Wednesday to announce a new program for licensing some of its intellectual property to others in the technology industry.

The move, to be announced by general counsel Brad Smith in a teleconference, builds on existing efforts by the company to license its technology in ways that allow other technology companies to connect their products to Microsoft software. The company was required to license its protocols as part of its settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice and several U.S. states.

In a media advisory, Microsoft invited journalists to the call "announcing the expanded developments around access to previously unavailable Microsoft innovation and R&D. The call also will discuss a new overarching policy designed to increase access to Microsoft technology for industry participants."

In August, Microsoft said it had broadened the terms by which it licensed certain protocols needed to create products that work with Windows. Under its settlement with regulators, Microsoft is required to license such code on "reasonable and non-discriminatory" terms.

However, a source familiar with the company's plans said Wednesday's announcement goes beyond the terms of the settlement and represents a broader effort to license its technology. A Microsoft representative declined to comment beyond the information included in the media alert.

In addition to licensing its technology to meet legal obligations, the company has previously offered limited access to its software code to advance business goals.

For example, Microsoft said in September that it would submit its Windows Media 9 codec to a standards body as part of an effort to win broader adoption of the format.

The company also recently expanded its shared source program to allow other companies that provide PC technical support to have access to some source code.

Last month, Microsoft announced that it will license the Extensible Markup Language-based file formats used in the latest edition of its Office applications on a royalty-free basis. That program, set to begin on Friday, was motivated by looming competitive and regulatory pressures, analysts said.

 

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