A Legal Eye on Microsoft's Openness

Lora Bentley

So what does Microsoft really mean when it pledges more openness? This month's issue of Redmond Developer News features a discussion with Top Coder's general counsel, Iran Heffen, for a legal perspective on the issues.


Generally, Heffen says, it looks like Microsoft is simply making an effort to be more open and interoperable -- because that's what the market is demanding -- and maintain its business and its intellectual property as much as possible. Yes, part of the motivation may be the need to appease European regulators, and part of it is probably a desire to see its Office OpenXML document format ratified as an ISO standard. But overall, Microsoft is simply following a trend toward openness.


The fact that Microsoft will publish the covered protocols on its Web site should be a great time and money saver for developers, Heffen says:

[I]t is very expensive for an open source project to review all of Microsoft's patents to see whether a particular technology might indeed be patented. If Microsoft publishes this information as announced, it will enable everyone to make decisions about whether to adopt a particular technology with knowledge about the extent to which it is covered by Microsoft's patents...

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