Microsoft and Lexmark ink patent deal

The deal is one in a series of agreements the software maker has signed to protect IP investments

Microsoft Tuesday unveiled yet another of its patent agreements, this time with printer manufacturer Lexmark.

The companies said they are allowing "greater mutual access" to each other's patent portfolios but are not disclosing the terms of the deal, according to a news statement.

Microsoft also declined to provide more specifics about what technologies are covered in the agreement beyond information contained in the statement, which said it covers a broad range of products from both companies.

Microsoft is historically a stickler for ensuring people don't violate its patents, which number about 15,000 worldwide, and has more than 500 cross-licensing deals in place already. Companies with agreements similar to Lexmark's include Samsung, Pioneer, Nikon, Hewlett-Packard and Brother, just to name a few.

Microsoft officially launched its IP licensing program in 2003, after which it began striking patent deals in earnest.

Microsoft has been particularly ardent about pursuing alleged open-source violators of its patents, evident in public claims by executives that Linux violates more than 235 patents Microsoft holds and its recent patent suit against GPS device maker TomTom, which uses Linux. In that suit, pending in a U.S. District Court in Washington state, Microsoft is alleging that the version of Linux TomTom uses violates its patents.

Microsoft has also struck cross-licensing and patent deals with some Linux providers, including Novell and Xandros. Microsoft declined to reveal whether the Lexmark agreement covers open-source technologies, citing the deal's confidentiality.

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Elizabeth Montalbano

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