Bart Eppenauer is Microsof't Chief Patent Counsel — the man who oversees the company's enormous portfolio of 20,000 patents. That's a big job at a time when technology patents are under increasing scrutiny — especially patents on software and mobile technologies, which have sparked billions in litigation around the world. We spoke for a few minutes about how he sees the landscape changing, and how he's shaping Microsoft's policy for the future.
What I love about my job is that I have the good fortune of seeing all of the amazing innovations happening across Microsoft. I've been at Microsoft for fifteen years now and really have been able to see how we've grown, how our technology has grown, and how our leadership position has grown.
What we strive to do is integrate as well as we can with all the different business divisions to really understand where the technology investments are being made, where the innovation is occurring, what the priorities are for the future, and put a patent strategy in place that is aligned with and supports the business.
It really starts with Microsoft's investment and commitment to research and development. Microsoft invests more than nine billion dollars annually every year in research and development, and we really see intellectual property and patents as foundational and very much aligned to that commitment to research and development.
We really see patents and intellectual property as a key element in this entire cycle of innovation. IP is the currency of innovation, and companies and entrepreneurs and individuals can use IP as currency to collaborate, to share intellectual property, and to work towards building and making great new products and services.
In a lot of ways, Microsoft uses that currency of innovation through IP licensing arrangements. Since 2003, we've entered into more than 1100 IP agreements with various companies, small, large, across the world, and really that's about open innovation and collaboration and sharing technologies.
We engage in both basic research and also applied research to develop products that advance the state of technology, and we then disseminate those innovations in our products and in our services and through our intellectual property. You invest in R&D, you create intellectual property, you build products and license IP, you get a return on that investment, and you can use that to generate more research and development
We really opened the doors of our licensing business in 2003, and we broadly licensed our patents to all commerce. That said, we do have certain areas where we'll decide that it is not in Microsoft's interest to license certain areas of technology. With the Kinect and natural user interface, we have something around six hundred or so patents that we feel relate to or cover different aspects of NUI technology like touch, speech recognition, gesture recognition, and skeletal tracking. These things really make Kinect light up — they're the magic of Kinect. We're evolving our licensing strategy when it comes to NUI.
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