As the mobile and embedded industry continues to face various
intellectual property and patent challenges, Microsoft is upping the
indemnification ante it offers its partners.
Microsoft Embedded and Windows Mobile OEM partners and
distributors will now enjoy the same level of protection that other
Microsoft platform partners have benefited from.
Microsoft claims that the new protection is not being driven as a
direct result of recent alleged patent-infringement suits that have
been filed against Microsoft.
The extended indemnification protection now provides Windows
Embedded and Mobile OEMs and distributors with defense against IP
claims in all of the counties that Microsoft serves.
It also removes the monetary cap for defense costs and provides
protection of patent, copyright, trademark and trade-secret claims
related to Windows Mobile and Windows Embedded software.
At the end of 2005, Visto, a company partially owned by Research
in Motion's patent nemesis NTP, filed suit against Microsoft
alleging that Windows Mobile 5.0 infringes on three Visto-awarded
But David Kaefer, director of business development for the
Intellectual Property and Policy group at Microsoft, said that Visto
was not the impetus for the protection extension.
"I don't think that any one lawsuit or circumstance is driving us
towards making this announcement," Kaefer told internetnews.com. "We
have about two-dozen patent suits today that we defend against.
"Is it the Visto response? No, " Kaefer continued. "This is
something that is specific to the amount of time it takes to deal
with the unique needs of this segment."
Kaefer explained that Microsoft has been working on adding the
additional protection since May and that the delay is due to
differences between the embedded space and the rest of Microsoft's
Embedded devices manufactures like to have a lot of say and
control about how they shape and even modify software to make it fit
on devices. The potential for modification is what makes it the
indemnification a bit tricky.
Microsoft has now figured out a solution. According to Kaefer,
the simple notion is that source code that Microsoft ships is
covered to the extent that if the embedded distributor adds their
own source code, that is not covered.
The extension of indemnification for Mobile and Embedded partners
is particularly an advantage because of the high costs of dealing
with potential infringement issues.
"Many companies that have experimented with building their own
software have realized that it puts them in charge of managing the
IP cost and risk," Kaefer said.
In the buy versus build decision, the added benefit of indemnity
is a significant value add in Kaefer's view.
Microsoft's protection is also noteworthy in that it extends to
all of its partners, regardless of size.
"It is common practice in the industry for some partners to get
better indemnifications than other partners," Kaefer said. "The
message that we're sending is that from our biggest partner to our
most modest-sized partners, you will all get one level of standard
Microsoft began its more widespread indemnification efforts
originally back in 2004. IDC and Forrester Research shortly
thereafter lauded its efforts as being industry-leading.
The mobile and embedded spaces remain fiercely competitive, with
Microsoft, according to some, leading the pack.
Linux is hardly a slouch in embedded and remains a competitor to
Microsoft. A recent study reported that the embedded Linux market is
valued at $100 million dollars a year.
Linux has of course come under intellectual and patent scrutiny
from SCO in recent years; though Linux vendors have all, to some
degree, offered indemnification to their users, as well.