Microsoft Corp. has recently been making significant news in the intellectual property arena after releasing an IP portal, Microsoft 4Afrika IP Hub, signing a patent cross-licensing agreement with Canon, and shifting Horacio Gutierrez to a new role within the company.

At the end of June, Microsoft revealed a new online IP portal called Microsoft 4Afrika IP Hub in order to create an IP protection culture in Africa. According to Microsoft, the portal will help develop, protect and monetize innovations. Up until now, there has not been a lot of initiative to protect valuable IP. According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) only 383 resident applications were filed in Kenya between 2009 and 2012 whereas 268,000 resident patents were filed in that time in the United States. So in order to reduce the vulnerability of exploitation, Microsoft is providing a tool that small businesses of Africa can now use.

The director for Legal and Corporate Affairs, Louis Otieno, says, “The Microsoft 4Afrika innovation goal is to bring to market and help African startups monetize their innovations and ideas, and allow them to make the right connection with investors. Protecting intellectual property ultimately leads to wealth creation and economic growth, and encourages development of knowledge-based industries. We designed the IP Hub to play a critical role in empowering African innovators and spurring this growth.” 



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Shortly after the release of the IP portal, Microsoft made other IP news when it announced that Horacio Gutierrez had transitioned into a new role within the company. The corporate vice president and deputy general counsel will now be in charge of the products and services division with Microsoft’s law and corporate affairs. He had previously been in charge of patent licensing and IP affairs.

The shift in Gutierrez’s role does not indicate a strategy change but rather it is a continuation of the efforts made over the past few years for the company to broadly license its patents.

In continuation with its commitment to licensing IP, Microsoft signed a patent cross-licensing agreement with Canon on July 2. The two parties can now gain access to each other’s patent portfolios. According to Microsoft, the cross-licensing covers many different products and services such as certain digital imaging and mobile consumer products. The details of the agreement have not been disclosed.

Nick Psyhogeos, general manager and associate general counsel of Microsoft’s IP group, states, ““This collaborative approach with Canon allows us to deliver inventive technologies that benefit consumers around the world. Microsoft believes cooperative licensing is an effective way to accelerate innovation while reducing patent disputes.”