Microsoft Expands IP Licensing to Startups

Microsoft is licensing its intellectual property to eight diverse IT firms in hopes of jumpstarting their chances in the ecosystem, the company said Monday.

The move marks a shift in the Redmond, Wash.-based software vendor’s
policy of licensing IP to only larger corporations and governments.

Ascender, BridgeCo, Inrix, D-Link, Lexar Media, I-O
Data Device, GoVideo and SMC Networks are now the proud owners of some
highly sought after code. Some of the property comes courtesy of
Microsoft Research as well as its Windows Connect Now technology.
Financial terms of any of the seven deals were not announced.

The list represents a cross section of companies. Some are startups, some publicly traded. Some are software vendors. Others specialize in hardware. All are characterized by Microsoft execs as “high-growth companies.”

“This isn’t about licensing a few patents and generating modest income; this is about jump-starting the growth of our partners that can take some of our early ideas and build upon them in a way that maximizes their commercial potential,” David Kaefer, director of business development in the intellectual property and licensing group at Microsoft, said in a statement.

The investments are partially an attempt by Microsoft to give the IP recipients a fighting chance in the marketplace. For example, both
D-Link and SMC Networks compete with Cisco’s Linksys division as well as 3Com and Netgear.

Lexar has a tight customer relationship with Kodak in order to make its memory cards, but often finds itself in bidding contracts against Hitachi and SanDisk.

Of the software startups, Inrix, a new Pacific Northwest-based
technology company, is tapping right into Microsoft’s R&D. The company is the exclusive third-party licensee of Microsoft Research technologies code-named SmartPhlow, JamBayes and ZoneZoom. The Bayesian analysis
technology gives customers relevant, up-to-the-minute traffic
information, taking into account weather conditions, construction
schedules, holidays, sporting events and historical traffic patterns.

Currently more than 3,000 employees at Microsoft are using this
technology as part of a Microsoft Research pilot in the Seattle area.
Inrix said it plans to roll out its traffic services built from
Microsoft Research technology in the United States by the end of this

Ascender is getting a boost from Microsoft through its various Windows fonts, including many multilingual fonts that are generally only available in Microsoft products. Elk Grove Village, Ill.-based Ascender
said it would make Microsoft’s classic Georgia, Tahoma and Verdana font
formats available for the first time.

Through the newly announced Windows Connect Now (WCN) licensing program, Microsoft said it is helping the rest of the bunch grow their businesses. D-Link, BridgeCo, Lexar Media, I-O Data Device, GoVideo and SMC Networks have all received licenses to allow consumer electronic devices to better connect around the home.

The companies will use WCN for their various technologies including gateway products with USB ports as well as silicon and firmware platform for media networking.

“Innovation does not happen in a vacuum,” Keith Karlsen, executive vice president of D-Link, said in a statement. “Companies need to collaborate to innovate, and licensing such technologies as WCN helps us maintain our competitive edge in the home connectivity market.”

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