Microsoft introduced a new program on Wednesday designed to protect their Azure cloud customers from "patent trolls," companies that accuse other businesses of patent infringement on the chance they might win some settlement money.
The program, dubbed the Azure IP Advantage, will make 10,000 Microsoft patents available to Azure customers allowing them to defend themselves should they be sued. Microsoft wants software developers to be able to focus on coding and allow businesses to agilely respond to customer needs without fear of lawsuits.
IP lawsuits relating to cloud products have risen 22% in the U.S. over the last five years, according to Boston Consulting Group. At the same time, non-practicing entities increased their acquisition of cloud patents by 35%.
The pace of innovation should not be slowed by companies looking to make a buck on other company’s discoveries. The idea behind Azure IP Advantage, therefore, is that by latching on to one of Microsoft’s existing patents, the company being sued will be better able to defend itself against patent trolls.
Tech companies have been pushing for patent reform to fix this issue, but until things change, Azure users now have another option.
Microsoft hopes the new offering will allow their customers to operate and innovate more freely while reducing IP risk. Of course, Microsoft also hopes the new service will attract more customers to Azure, which has been making strong gains in the cloud market over the last 18 months.