You Embed Windows, Microsoft Pays Lawsuits

In a move designed to increase the appeal of Windows operating systems to makers of mobile and embedded systems, Microsoft announced yesterday it is extending intellectual property protection it offers to device makers using its Windows Mobile and Windows Embedded operating systems. Microsoft is now offering to foot the entire legal bill if OEM partners using those operating systems are sued for patent, trademark, copyright, trade secret, or other intellectual property claims in every country in which Microsoft distributes and markets those operating systems.

The move comes as a much-publicized, multi-year patent dispute between BlackBerry maker RIM and patent holding company NTP comes to a head, causing many companies to re-examine and renew their patents. Firms are now viewing technology partnerships with other companies not only on their technical and marketing merits, but also in terms of intellectual property risk exposure. If including a technology could expose a maker to patent or intellectual property suits, the partnership may not be worth pursuing, even if those claims never hold up in court.

Microsoft’s offer to pay the bills for any intellectual property disputes regarding Windows Mobile and Windows Embedded is intended to ease partners fears about including those operating systems in their devices, and give the Microsoft operating systems a leg up against competition from Linux and other embedded systems which offer no such litigation protection. “This program enables our OEM and distributor partners to select Windows Embedded and Windows Mobile with even more confidence than ever,” said Suzan DelBene, VP of Microsoft’s Mobile and Embedded Devices Division. “We stand behind our software and partners, and this protection is the best assurance for device-makers using Windows Embedded or Windows Mobile to build amazing devices people won’t want to live without.”

Microsoft had previously offered litigation protection to its OEM partners, but the amounts were capped based on the partners’ business volume with Microsoft. In June 2005, Microsoft also removed caps on litigation protection it would offer PC makers hit with intellectual property suits resulting from their use of Microsoft software.