Microsoft VP explains why company fights patent trolls and defends open-source ecosystem

Surface Laptop 4 Amd 2021 Keyboard Lights
Surface Laptop 4 Amd 2021 Keyboard Lights (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Patent Assertion Entities (PAEs), sometimes dubbed "patent trolls," hit companies with patent infringement lawsuits.
  • These lawsuits can often be of a dubious nature, but many times result in a win for the PAEs simply because the price of shutting down the trolls in court is costlier than paying the blackmail amount.
  • Big companies such as Microsoft have joined the fight against patent trolls to safeguard the open-source realm.

Patent Assertion Entities (PAEs) are sometimes called "patent trolls" because their schtick is filing questionable lawsuits against companies in the hopes that their claims will score them easy money. Never mind the fact that often the patents being used to prop up the lawsuits in question aren't legitimate ammo for whatever legal claims are being asserted. The point is, the legal system often costs more upfront than blackmail, so many companies tend to pay up when a PAE comes knocking since proper litigation carries a higher price. That's why Microsoft is contributing to the fight against patent troll activity: To protect open-source operations and entities that may not have the resources to defend themselves.

Burton Davis, Microsoft VP and Deputy General Counsel, weighed in on the matter with the following statement (via ZDNet): "Low-quality patents continue to be a drain on innovation in the software industry and a threat to open source. Microsoft is committed to doing what it can to protect open-source from patent threats and to prevent low-quality patents from harming innovation."

Davis also reiterated Microsoft's commitment to the "valuable resource" that is the open-source ecosystem.

Microsoft joined United Patents' Open Source Software Zone (OSS Zone) alongside the Linux Foundation to help keep bad patents at bay. Heavy hitters entering the fight against patent trolls take some of the pressure off small open-source entities from having to defend themselves and help more easily build publicly documented histories that protect open-source communities by making it easier to debunk frivolous lawsuits.

Robert Carnevale

Robert Carnevale is the News Editor for Windows Central. He's a big fan of Kinect (it lives on in his heart), Sonic the Hedgehog, and the legendary intersection of those two titans, Sonic Free Riders. He is the author of Cold War 2395. Have a useful tip? Send it to