Microsoft is letting firms it works with on joint ventures keep patent and design rights for the technology it collaborates on.
The move, part of the firm's new initiative on intellectual property (IP), is expected to reduce concerns of tech giants like Microsoft using knowledge of their customers' market to compete with them.
An increasing number of companies are collaborating with big tech firms on new technologies like artificial intelligence, cloud and blockchain. IBM for instance is working with several food companies, including Nestle, Unilever and Walmart, on a blockchain project to trace contamination in the food supply.
"As collaboration like this between tech companies and their customers increases, so will the questions regarding who owns the patents and resulting intellectual property," Brad Smith, Microsoft's president, said in a blog post Thursday.
"There is growing concern that without an approach that ensures customers' own key patents to their new solutions, tech companies will use the knowledge to enter their customers' market and compete against them — perhaps even using the IP that customers helped create."