Microsoft and Autodesk to cross-licence patents

Microsoft and Autodesk have agreed to cross-licence their respective patent portfolios, the companies plan to announce on...

Microsoft and Autodesk have agreed to cross-licence their respective patent portfolios, the companies plan to announce on Thursday.

The agreement covers patents in several areas, including data management, collaboration, computer-aided design (CAD), digital effects, digital rights management and project management, Microsoft and Autodesk said in a statement. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Patents licensed from Autodesk could be useful to Microsoft in developing Xbox video games and a user interface for Longhorn, said David Kaefer, director of business development at Microsoft. Longhorn is the codename for next release of Windows, scheduled to ship in 2006.

Autodesk is eyeing several Microsoft patents, but the company has not detailed specific product plans, said Scott Borduin, Autodesk's chief technology officer.

"There are some very basic things Microsoft has done in terms of graphics environments that are relevant to us. Similar things that they have done in terms of basic database, networking and interface design technologies are quite relevant to our digital design data strategies," he said.
Although the cross-licensing pact is the first such deal for Autodesk, Microsoft has several similar agreements in place with SAP, Cisco, Siemens, Hewlett-Packard and IBM, Kaefer said.

It is also pursuing further agreements as part of a strategy to obtain the rights to technologies that it might use in its products, he said. Negotiations are already under way with about a dozen companies and over the next five years Microsoft hopes to have such deals in place with between 30 and 40 companies.

"About 30 or 40 companies end up being very important for us to have cross-licence agreements with," said Kaefer. "If you get agreements, at least in our industry, with the big 30 to 40, you can provide a tremendous amount of development freedom to yourself going forward. Probably about 80% of the relevant patents out there are really held by those 30 to 40 companies."

Joris Evers writes for the IDG News Service

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