Patent trolls are a growing problem, and Microsoft thinks that it has the solution an affordable-ish protection scheme for Azure customers.

Under the newly announced Azure IP Advantage program, users of Microsoft's cloud compute service can sign up and get the backing of Redmond's arsenal of more than 10,000 technology patents. Azure users can use those protected designs for protection from the trolls if it's alleged code hosted on Azure infringes someone else's intellectual property.

"Our goal is to help foster a community that values and protects innovation and investments in the cloud," said Microsoft's chief legal officer Brad Smith in a blog post .

"We want software developers to be able to focus on coding, and businesses and enterprises to be able to respond to the changing needs of their customers with agility without worrying about lawsuits."

There are some caveats. You have to spent at least $1,000 a month on Azure for the past three months, and it's not retroactive, so you can't sign up if you are already being sued or are suing another Azure customer.

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if you've got the cash, it sounds like a good idea, and one with enormous potential if handled right. Let's not forget that one of the biggest non-practicing entities out there hoarding patents is Intellectual Ventures, which was started by ex-Microsoftie Nathan Myhrvold, and if a cross-licensing scheme could be set up, Azure developers could be very well protected indeed.

For those worrying about the scenario of someone signing up to get protection, building software that's covered by a Microsoft patent so it can't be sued by a rival, and then getting a call from Redmond's crack legal eagles saying: "That's a nice application you've got there, all covered by our patent. It would be a terrible shame if something was to happen to it, and by it we mean your product...", don't be too scared. Apparently, Redmond won't pursue you.

"I don’t believe Microsoft does that, unlike another competitor," a spokesperson for the windows giant told The Reg . We wonder who that could possibly be referring to? Maybe the answer is found in our forums. Please do post away.

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