Microsoft celebrates 10,000 patent milestone

Microsoft's big-bucks investment in research and development (R&D) seems to be paying off as the software giant celebrates being awarded its 10,000th patent.

The milestone patent award by the US Patent and Trademark Office was for Microsoft's surface computing technology and indicates that the company's circa $8 billion (5.6 billion) annual injection into R&D isn't going to waste.

Patent number 7,479,950, to be more specific, covers intellectual property that lets users put things on a surface which can then be identified and associated with certain data, such as location or other media.

"Surface computing gives people instant access to digital information in a new way. The goal of this patent is to make the interaction between the physical and virtual worlds a little more seamless," said Microsoft Research's Curtis Wong, one of four co-inventors of the patent.

Microsoft is somewhat of a patent golden child, receiving more than 2,000 last year alone.

"Patents are the currency of innovation. They enable Microsoft to share our innovations with others through licensing, and that in turn enables others to share their innovations back with us," said Bart Eppenauer, Microsoft's chief patent counsel, in a statement.

He added: "Let's face it, the days of the self-contained, go-it-alone company are over. This is especially true during the current economic downturn. Open innovation is more critical than ever in today's business world."

Not everyone is as enamored with Microsoft's big R&D spend it would seem.

Microsoft shareholder Mike McDonald who owns some 118,000 shares is one sitting on that side of the fence.

"I still hold Microsoft so I still hold hope it will achieve what I think is its potential. By now it should have been $100+ per share. We've seen Apple rise and I remember when MS was handing out Apple oxygen because we didn't know if it would survive," he said on US publication Network World's Microsoft Subnet blog.

He added: "...MS is spending billions of dollars on R&D. Where is the return on investment? Who is there saying, as IBM eventually did, 'We need to get a return on our R&D, we're a business'?"

Maggie Holland

Maggie has been a journalist since 1999, starting her career as an editorial assistant on then-weekly magazine Computing, before working her way up to senior reporter level. In 2006, just weeks before ITPro was launched, Maggie joined Dennis Publishing as a reporter. Having worked her way up to editor of ITPro, she was appointed group editor of CloudPro and ITPro in April 2012. She became the editorial director and took responsibility for ChannelPro, in 2016.

Her areas of particular interest, aside from cloud, include management and C-level issues, the business value of technology, green and environmental issues and careers to name but a few.