How Microsoft responded to an open source world

How has Microsoft adapted to the era of open source? A new book, Burning the Ships: Intellectual Property and the Transformation of Microsoft, gives a detailed view into that question.

How has Microsoft adapted to the era of open source? A new book, Burning the Ships: Intellectual Property and the Transformation of Microsoft, gives a detailed view into that question. 

Authors Marshall Phelps, Microsoft’s former VP of Intellectual Property and Licensing from June 2003 to June 2006 (and still with the company as Vice President of Intellectual Property Policy and Strategy), and David Kline, who also wrote Rembrandts in the Attic, describe how Microsoft has been trying a new approach. 

While Microsoft was once thought of as one of the most aggressive companies in the world when it came to intellectual property protection, chairman Bill Gates and CEO Steve Ballmer responded to customer needs for greater interoperability between Windows and Linux and other market opportunities — by opening up the company’s immense intellectual property portfolio.  The book details Microsoft’s “Open for Business” initiative and provides insights into some of the tough early negotiations where Microsoft dropped its infamous NAP (non-assertion of patents) clause — and follows all the way through to Microsoft’s partnership with open source developer Novell.

While many in and outside of Microsoft are still skeptical of the company’s intentions regarding collaboration, Phelps and Kline make the case for more collaborative IP initiatives and reject the general notion that patent portfolios are about defending against or “taxing” the competition.  Phelps and Kline end the book with a discussion of the future of intellectual property and why so many organizations don’t seem to manage it well.