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Microsoft, Nikon sign patent-sharing deal

Nikon will compensate Microsoft in the cross-licensing deal, which the companies say will improve new consumer electronics products and features.

Microsoft and Nikon have signed a cross-licensing deal that gives each company access to the other's patents.

The deal is one of a growing list from Microsoft, which has been seeking to establish the heft and significance of its intellectual property effort.

Detailed terms of the Nikon deal weren't disclosed, but the companies said Nikon is compensating Microsoft through the alliance.

"The companies believe that this patent cross-licensing agreement will substantially benefit customers of consumer products including digital cameras," the companies said in a statement Wednesday. "Both parties will be able to innovate openly with each others' technologies, enabling new features and products to come to market."

Nikon and Microsoft didn't indicate what new products and features would be enabled through the patent agreement, but they did point to existing cooperative efforts involving wireless cameras and raw image formats.

Raw images are taken directly from a camera's image sensor with little or no in-camera processing; the formats more detailed and flexible than JPEG, but they're also proprietary and specific to each camera model, and they require processing with software to become useful to most consumers. Windows Vista has the ability to display raw images as long as a camera maker supplies the necessary encoding and decoding software plug-in, called a codec.