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Microsoft Expands Indemnification

Microsoft has expanded the scope of its intellectual property protection policy to cover customers using current and earlier versions of its software.

The announcement, made late Tuesday evening, includes the Windows Server System (including Microsoft SQL Serve and Exchange Server), Microsoft Office System and the Windows client.

Microsoft said it will cover the four forms of intellectual property disputes commonly associated with software: patent, copyright, trade secret and trademark disputes.

The company said it would defend any covered claim and pay any resulting damage awards or settlements relating to its software. Customers are covered retroactively for software they've already purchased.

Software vendors sometimes offer to cover the cost of legal fees and replacement of software if their customers are sued for patent or trademark infringement relating to code in the vendor's products. Such indemnification policies have become a point of competition and contention thanks in large part to lawsuits and licensing requests on the part of SCO .

SCO claims copyright infringement on select parts of the Linux kernel and has sued both vendors of Linux software and their customers.

Microsoft has touted its superior indemnification program, comparing it favorably to that of Novell , maker of a rival desktop operating system, NetWare, as well as a Linux version, Desktop 9, released on Monday.

Microsoft lifted its monetary cap for volume licensees in 2003. Before that, the IP protection Microsoft provided to its volume licensing customers was subject to a pre-set liability cap, usually the amount they had spent on the software in question. Now Microsoft has extended this IP protection to all licensed end-users of its indemnified software.