Microsoft’s IP head Erich Andersen has been promoted to corporate vice president in the latest sign of how much stock the software giant places in its IP group. The news, which was announced today by the company’s president and chief legal officer Brad Smith, comes a little under three years since Andersen was appointed to replace Horacio Gutierrez.
Since then, Microsoft has seen declines in its licensing revenue thanks to falls in the smartphone market, but has rolled-out a series of initiatives that have demonstrated its innovative approach to using its patent portfolio.
Most recently, the company announced a package of IP-related benefits for users of its Azure cloud service which expanded its indemnification policy to include open source technology providers that power Azure services, made 10,000 patents available to Azure customers to help defend themselves from infringement lawsuits and guaranteed that if Microsoft sold patents to an NPE they couldn’t be asserted against those customers. The initiative, known as the Microsoft Azure IP Advantage programme, demonstrated how the software giant is prepared to use its significant IP resources to gain an advantage over key cloud competitors Amazon and Google.
Under Andersen, Microsoft has also shown its willingness to use its hefty patent portfolio in deals with device manufacturers, which are typically designed to get more of the company’s products onto smartphones and tablets. Perhaps the leading example of that was the agreement announced last summer with Xiaomi that included the Chinese mobile company picking up 1,500 patents and agreeing to pre-install Microsoft Office and Skype on its Android phone and tablets.
Andersen was appointed Microsoft’s IP supremo in 2014 after stints as head of the EMEA legal and government affairs team and as deputy general counsel for the Office and Windows products divisions. His predecessor Horacio Gutierrez took on a role focused on Microsoft’s cloud business before being appointed general counsel and then leaving to take the top legal job at Spotify in March last year.
During his time in charge Gutierrez played a key role in transforming Microsoft’s licensing business into a multi-billion dollar operation. Arguably his successor’s greatest achievement has been to show that IP value creation is about much more than just the top and bottom lines.