Anticipate This!™ | Patent and Trademark Law Blog

Review: Burning the Ships: Intellectual Property and the Transformation of Microsoft.

Posted in General Commentary by Jake Ward on June 16, 2009


Burning the Ships, by Marshall Phelps and David Kline, provides a unique, behind-the-scenes insight into the decisions behind Microsoft’s internal evolution in intellectual property policy.  The reasons provided for the demise of the non-assertion of patents or “NAP” clause, for example, is particularly interesting. 

Phelps joined Microsoft after many years at IBM, where he orchestrated their highly successful licensing program.  At Microsoft, he overcame significant internal resistance and succeeded in causing Microsoft to collaborate with other companies.  

Of particular interest to those interested in building a corporate IP program are the objectives set forth in Phelp’s “5-year plan”, namely:

1. Build an outward-facing IP and licensing culture within the company;
2. Play a leading role in the global IP debates;
3. Develop closer coordination between the IP group and the technical development teams in the business units to help guide innovation strategy;
4. Better protect technologies by becoming a top-10 patentee;
5. Maximize the utilization of IP assets to support the companies business goals, standards efforts, and relations with open source and other firms; and
6. Use licensing revenue and cost optimization to fund IP&L’s expanded efforts.

As a negative, the authors’ perspective is certainly (understandably?) biased toward Microsoft.  There is also a lot of name-dropping throughout the book, and a certain amount of unnecessary repetition.  Overall, however, we enjoyed the book and would recommend it to our readers.  

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