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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 May, 2005, 10:37 GMT 11:37 UK
Microsoft shares spare technology
Computer keyboard and money
Microsoft wants to make money out of its research
Microsoft is to license out some of its spare technology from its research and development arm to start-up companies.

It wants investors in small, young firms to take advantage of 20 technologies which have not yet been let loose on the technology market.

Developments which are going to be made available include face detection and tracking software and a natural language-processing technology.

Research costs billions, but many good ideas fail to make it into products.

Microsoft said that if the deal meant "cool technologies" reached the market sooner, even if not in a Microsoft product, it would count that as a success.

"If we pull this off, if we're able to collaborate effectively ... we can create new companies and new jobs," said David Harnett, senior director of Microsoft's Intellectual Property Ventures.

Tamper-proof identification card software
Conference XP - high-performance audio, video and network technologies for distance conferencing
Face detection and tracking software
Natural language-processing program that adapts to students based on answers to questions
Licences and agreements on use of technologies will be worked out on a case-by-case basis, said David Kaefer, director of business development for Microsoft's intellectual property and licensing group.

In some cases, Microsoft would take part ownership in the young companies using the technology, or royalty payments would be paid to the software giant. Some cases may require a mix of both approaches.

Microsoft recently struck a deal with US firm Inrix, which was started by former employees from Microsoft and online travel site Expedia.

Inrix bought an exclusive licence from Microsoft for a program that helped predict traffic flows.

Microsoft is famously protective of its software and research, but Microsoft said that it would be looking to open up even more technologies and intellectual property rights in the future.

Companies that patent software have been criticised by the open source community. Proponents of open source software say that programs should be made freely available to others, without having to pay licences for it.

IBM recently made 500 of its patents freely available.

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