In a recent blog post, Brad Smith, President and Chief Legal Officer of Microsoft, announced details of Microsoft’s plans to “protect innovation and investments as it applies to the cloud.” Citing research by the Boston Consulting Group that noted an increase in cloud-related intellectual property litigation over the last five years, Smith elaborated on Microsoft’s recognition of the risks associated with doing business in the cloud in the form of The Microsoft Azure IP Advantage program. The Microsoft Azure IP Advantage program gives customers unlimited indemnification coverage that now includes open source technologies such as Hadoop. In addition, the program allows customers to make use of roughly 10,000 Microsoft patents in order to protect themselves against charges of the infringement of intellectual property. The 10,000 patents draw upon Microsoft’s vast portfolio of its own patents and promises to give customers an unprecedented degree of legal protection for Azure-based applications. Moreover, Microsoft will offer continued legal protection to customers using one of its patents in the event that Microsoft decides to transfer one of its patents to another entity. Customers are eligible for Microsoft Azure IP Advantage if they spend at least $1000/month on Azure and have not filed patent-related lawsuits against other Azure customers.
The Microsoft IP Advantage program represents a key differentiator for Microsoft Azure against Amazon Web Services and the Google Cloud Platform given that it draws upon Microsoft’s extraordinary tenure in the tech industry and the slew of patents it has accumulated over the course of decades as one of the world’s premier technology companies. The program, which bears no parallel in the cloud industry at represent, underscores some of the out of the box thinking from the Azure team as Azure strives to bolster its differentiation from AWS and Google by tapping into Microsoft’s tenure as a software company as well as its deep relationships with enterprise customers. Microsoft’s Satya Nadella and Scott Guthrie will need to keep up the gas pedal on innovation, however, as Amazon Web Services and Google both continue to roll out new features and functionality at a breathtaking pace. For now, however, the Microsoft IP Advantage program demonstrates an extraordinary attentiveness to customer needs and marks another feather in Azure’s cap that allows it to stand out from other players within the cloud jungle.