Gates wants patent power

Can Microsoft win itself 3,000 patents this year? The answer could have an effect on its bottom line.

Ina Fried
Ina Fried Former Staff writer, CNET News
During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley.
REDMOND, Wash.--Bill Gates wants more credit for Microsoft's inventions.

Microsoft's chairman said Thursday that the company expects to file 3,000 patent applications this year, up from a little over 2,000 last year and 1,000 just a few years ago.

Hitting the 3,000 mark would put the software giant in a league almost by itself. Last year, IBM ranked as the champion company in this particular race, winning 3,415 patents from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, with no close runners-up in the high-tech field. Hewlett-Packard was No. 5 on the list with 1,759.

The push for more patents comes as Microsoft is trying to boost the licensing of its intellectual property to other companies, an effort that began last year.

"We're at an early state on that but it is something that we are pretty excited (about)," Gates said, speaking at the company's yearly financial analysts meeting here.

It's not just a goal of attaining sheer numbers, Gates said. "We think--patent for patent--what we are doing is, if anything, more important than what others are doing."

In addition to patents related to XML and other software technologies, Microsoft has received some unusual patents in the past year including one for a method for using human skin to transmit power and data and one for a new type of apple although Microsoft said that was a lawyer's error and the patent belongs to someone else.

Gates demonstrated several new technologies that the company's research unit is working on, including an improved method for browsing through a library of digital photos and videos.