Microsoft: Research, IP are compatible

Microsoft says collaborative research projects do not pose compatibility problems with protecting intellectual property.

As Microsoft plans to increase its investment in research partnerships in Europe, the research produced is compatible with intellectual property claims and the aims of a commercial company, said a senior company official.

The work at the company's Microsoft Research Center in Cambridge, England, has resulted in at least 65 patents for Microsoft, said Andrew Herbert, managing director.

"We are very proud of our ability to generate intellectual property for the company," Herbert said during a keynote address in Brussels at Microsoft's European Research and Innovation Day. The conference focused on Microsoft's collaborative research projects on the continent and also addressed Europe's transition to a technology-based information economy.

Herbert said his group has presented around 70 academic papers at top-tier conferences. Many of the research prototypes that are generated are shared with its partners, Herbert said.

With projects that are jointly funded with governments or universities, "the intellectual property is jointly owned. What we have agreed is that we will protect the intellectual property as a joint entity and then consider what is the right path to exploit it," Herbert said.

Jean Philippe Courtois, president of Microsoft International, cited the European Microsoft Innovation Center in Aachen, Germany. Founded in 2003, the facility focuses on collaborative applied research, working with 25 to 30 different businesses on joint, open projects.

If Microsoft wants to use a technology exclusively, it can negotiate for that right, Herbert said. In other situations, Microsoft may "spin out" the technology to local software companies. The technology also may be licensed to a third party, he said.

Many of Microsoft's university partners are increasingly thinking about how they can protect and exploit the intellectual property they generate, Herbert said.

"It's very much the spirit of the modern research community," Herbert said.

Herbert's facility in Cambridge includes four main areas: operating systems and network distributed computers; programming tools and principles; machine learning and perception; and the interaction of devices within home environments, called computer-mediated living.

Microsoft plans to increase its stake in joint research projects throughout Europe, as company officials outlined Tuesday a need to contribute to the development of computer science in Europe. Microsoft officials said at the Brussels conference that investing in research centers in Europe helps keep a technology pipeline flowing and invigorates development.

Over the next two years, Microsoft plans on doubling the number of researchers in its program. Now, the company has about 700 working in six laboratories on three continents.

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