Image source: https://blog.ipleaders.in/rise-of-technology-in-the-legal-fraternity/

This article has been written by Shradha Jain pursuing a Diploma in Intellectual Property, Media, and Entertainment Laws from LawSikho.

Introduction 

Microsoft is one of the world’s leading innovators, with an annual R&D investment of more than $16.8 billion. Their capacity to innovate and drive the development of cutting-edge technology and solutions throughout the world is dependent on different forms of intellectual property (IP), including patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets, as both owners and users of IP. Microsoft aims to foster global innovation via the use of intellectual property and advocates both balance and clarity in IP rights for the benefit of all parties involved with intellectual property. The present age of innovation represents a dynamic world that is quickly evolving due to breakthroughs in AI-fueled by huge data, higher computing power, and smart algorithms. Microsoft is leveraging its intellectual property portfolio to assist customers, partners, and developers all across the world in the field of building on technology to drive their innovations forward. There are four types of property rights that are important to software: patents, copyrights, trade secrets, and trademarks. In this article, we will discuss them briefly and see how they have aided in the development and protection of Microsoft. 

Patents

TRIPS Agreement Article 27(1) Patents must be accessible for all inventions in all sectors of technology, whether product or process, provided that they are novel, entails an innovative step, and are capable of industrial application. The advantages of securing patent protection can be remarkable, as demonstrated by the Google-Microsoft case, where Microsoft claimed that android infringes on some of its patents and they have since then decided to settle the case. They not only support the company’s products and services, but they also generate ideas that keep it expanding and competitive. Microsoft earned about $3.4 billion from its Android patents as late as 2014. Samsung alone paid Microsoft a billion dollars to license its Android patents. Microsoft is well-known for its substantial patent portfolio and aggressive IP strategy. Moreover, the software behemoth invests $11.4 billion in R&D and has a patent portfolio of over 90,000 presently active published patent applications. Microsoft generates a substantial amount of money by licensing its patents. List of patents by Microsoft include-Surface Duo, Microsoft 365, Windows 10 apps, HoloLens 2.

Azure IP initiative 

Microsoft has taken the step in this direction to foster innovation. Microsoft promises that qualifying customers will get “uncapped indemnification” for infringement claims stemming from their usage of Azure IP Initiative, including claims emerging from open-source software solutions like Apache Hadoop that are integrated into Azure and offered under Microsoft’s agreements. The new tool would also allow clients to choose from a pool of 10,000 Microsoft patents to help them avoid litigation. Microsoft wants to earn customer trust by providing what it terms “the industry’s most complete protection against intellectual property hazards.” 

Copyright 

In the 1970s, WIPO began to study the issue of legal protection for computer programmes, and the notion of developing a sui generis system arose initially. Sui generis protection is applied to all three components of computer programs: object code, source code, and documentation. “Source code” refers to the original code of a computer program written in program languages that can be read and understood by humans, particularly those who specialise in this field; “object code” refers to a version of the programme that is directly usable by a computer, in binary form – a series of “zeroes” and “ones” – that computer processors can comprehend, but humans can’t unless it’s “decompiled,” or converted into source code. Article 10 of The TRIPS Agreement contains an interpretive provision stating that computer programs, whether in source or object code, shall be protected by the Berne Convention.  Article 4 of the 1996 WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) includes the same clarification in very similar terms. Xbox Game Pass Ultimate: The list of copyrighted content- Xbox Live Gold, Xbox games, Xbox Points Calculator.

Permission to use

Microsoft products and services, including pictures, text, and software downloads (the “content”), is either owned by Microsoft Corporation or licensed to Microsoft by third parties. Microsoft cannot offer you authorization to use third-party material. You may only copy, alter, distribute, display, license, or sell the material if express authorization is given in the End-User License Agreement (EULA) or license conditions that accompany the content or are specified in the instructions below.

For permission to be granted for any uses allowed by these guidelines, you must comply with the following four requirements:

  1. Use full product name;
  2. Link methods;
  3. No offensive use; 
  4. Permitted by Microsoft.

Trademarks

A trademark is a symbol that distinguishes one company’s goods or services from those of other companies. Intellectual property rights safeguard trademarks. A trademark might be a single word or a mixture of words, characters, and numbers. However, trademarks may also be drawings, symbols, three-dimensional elements such as the form and packaging of items, non-visible signals such as sounds or smells, or color tints utilized as identifying qualities — the possibilities are nearly infinite.

Windows Trademark

Despite the fact that Microsoft released its Windows software in 1985, it did not register a trademark for it until 1990. The extended period before registering for a trademark harmed the brand since many people connected the Windows interface with how the software presented the user’s desktop. As a result, the Trademark Office denied the application on the grounds of the ‘merely descriptive’ aspect. After learning from its error, the firm recognized the importance of trademark protection. While the registration was finally awarded, the delayed trademark filing put the brand’s market share in danger.

Trademark and Brand Guidelines (“Guidelines”)

It explains how people may assist them in protecting Microsoft’s brand assets, like as logos, names, and app and product icons, as well as the trust that they represent. These Guidelines have been developed to assist explain the correct use of their brand assets. Microsoft retains the right to take whatever action is required to safeguard them and, as a result, its customers and the public. Microsoft’s brand assets, which logos, icons, designs, trade dress, fonts, names of Microsoft software, products, services, sounds, emojis, and any other brand features and elements, whether registered or unregistered (“Brand Assets”), are proprietary assets owned solely by Microsoft and its group of companies. These Guidelines, which may be modified from time to time, describe how their Brand Assets may be utilized in particular situations. Many applications, including their logos, app, and product icons, and other designs, will need the acquisition of a license beforehand. Unless a license is obtained from Microsoft, these Guidelines shall govern the use of their Brand Assets exclusively. Examples of brand assets requiring a license from Microsoft- Microsoft corporate logo, Microsoft product logos, Microsoft product icons, badges, etc. 

Trade secrets 

Trade secrets have long been used to preserve innovation in conventional businesses. It merely requires that you take reasonable steps to keep the source code secret, such as making agreements with everyone who has access to the source code to keep it secret. There are no formalities, such as filing with a government agency, that must be followed. Secret formulae, client lists, and production techniques have generated value for firms that have taken the appropriate precautions to maintain their confidentiality. In general, for information to qualify as a trade secret, it must be:

  1. Commercially valuable because it is hidden, 
  2. known only to a small number of people, and 
  3. subject to reasonable procedures taken by the lawful owner of the information to keep it hidden, including the employment of confidentiality agreements with business partners and staff.

Cortana

Consider Microsoft’s Cortana, which serves as our personal digital assistant. True, she can assist you in making calls, sending SMS, scheduling and reminding you of meetings, and directing you to your next appointment. However, Cortana is supported by a large amount of technology created or upgraded in-house by Microsoft. Voice recognition; language translation; reactive and predictive algorithms capable of synthesizing context, location, and data and interacting with the huge resources of the Bing search engine index; and a sophisticated array of cloud servers capable of crunching and serving data in real-time. This technology is the result of tens of thousands of hours of study, trial and error, and continuous development for its improvement. 

While patent and copyright cover a part of this invention, trade secret protection is critical for something like Cortana, which continues to evolve. Many crucial but invisible parts of goods – the “know-how” – are trade secrets: the product development process, the business strategy for how and when the product will be released, and future enhancements as well as proposals to use such technologies into whole new product categories. Although some parts of confidentiality regulations, such as data exclusivity for pharmaceutical firms (Article 39.3 of the TRIPS Agreement), are debatable, there is widespread agreement that confidential disclosure is advantageous in a contemporary economy.

Conclusion

IP is a tried-and-true method of fostering innovation, raising living conditions, and increasing employment. Can we afford to exclude or limit patent protection for software-related ideas as the global economy becomes more digitized, with software increasingly constituting the foundation of innovation and economic competition?

The goal, without a doubt, is to establish conditions that allow innovators and engineers to devote resources to software development in order to find new methods to communicate and do business. As digitalization accelerates in many aspects of our lives, the moment has come for the international community to reconsider the existing state of affairs and assess the benefits of expanding patent protection for computer programs that incorporate software-related discoveries. Today, Microsoft spends a significant amount of time and effort in developing breakthrough software, gadgets, and products, as well as employing a strong IP strategy to increase its brand value. It has emerged as an example of what firms may do when they recognize the importance of various forms of intellectual property protection.

References

  1. https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/legal/intellectualproperty/trademarks.
  2. https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/legal/copyright/permissions#:~:text=Microsoft%20products%20and%20services%E2%80%94including,permission%20to%20use%20the%20content.&text=For%20more%20information%2C%20consult%20your%20copyright%20attorney.
  3. https://www.zdnet.com/article/microsoft-open-sources-its-entire-patent-portfolio/.

Students of Lawsikho courses regularly produce writing assignments and work on practical exercises as a part of their coursework and develop themselves in real-life practical skills.

LawSikho has created a telegram group for exchanging legal knowledge, referrals, and various opportunities. You can click on this link and join:

Follow us on Instagram and subscribe to our YouTube channel for more amazing legal content.

 

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here