Microsoft signs up for patent protection -

Software king of the world Microsoft has signed up to a crowdsourcing service that seeks to find prior art and eliminate patents that should not have been awarded.

The Litigation Avoidance Program has been established by a startup that pays cash to discoverers of prior art.

The outfit says that it has a million-strong community of patent researchers and it gives out rewards of $5,000 and $50,000. So far it claims to have paid out more than $1.3 million in bounties.

With prior art the defendants being taken to the cleaners by Patent Trolls can then seek to have the patents invalidated.

The Litigation Avoidance Program looks for patents bought by trolls and hunts down prior art relevant to those patents.

One of the goals of the project is to help companies to more easily identify poor-quality patents that ought not have been issued, and use the prior art to overturn them.

Microsoft has had to pay $521 million to Eolas after Internet Explorer's use of plugins infringed on an Eolas patent.

Bart Eppenauer, Chief Patent Counsel at Microsoft, said  that trolls will continue to target large technology companies and often with dodgy patent portfolios. The Litgation Avoidance Program would "reduce risk and potential litigation cost."

It would have made sod all difference to the Eoloas patent case. Eolas's patent survived all tests of prior art.