Today marks the fifth anniversary of IP Ventures, Microsoft's program that opens up technologies developed internally at Microsoft to entrepreneurs and new businesses.

The IP Ventures team within Microsoft identifies technology not being used by the company - or that could be used in a different way - and treats this IP as a form of currency that can be invested in other businesses. While the new companies that take advantage of these technologies still need to find financial backing, the Microsoft program helps provide ample technology support and business guidance throughout the process.

Microsoft's IP Ventures is the subject of a Harvard Business School profile. According to author of the study, Professor Josh Lerner, "We think it's an interesting model and believe that students, as well corporations that invest heavily in research, could benefit from looking into what Microsoft has done." As Microsoft cannot work all the IP it creates into its product portfolio, IP Ventures allows Microsoft to transfer those technologies into the hands of other entrepreneurs.

According to program director Sharieff Mansour, "When you're dealing with new technologies and there aren't established players, it lends itself to starting new ventures and creating tangible job opportunities around the IP. IP Ventures works with entrepreneurs and venture capitalists to get those technologies to market quickly. The program also serves as a vehicle for the venture capitalist community to work with us in a meaningful way."

Over the last five years, IP Ventures has helped support the launch of several new companies including the mobile media company Zumobi, the children's learning game company Sabi, and Inrix, a Seattle-based traffic reporting company.

Pat Brazel, whose company Zignals participated in the program says, "From a technical point of view, frankly it's inconceivable that any small company could build the stuff that we got from IP Ventures. We're standing on the shoulders of giants in terms of the technology we got from Microsoft."

While the companies that IP Ventures has supported are still in their infancy, the end goal of the program is to help develop sizable, stand-alone businesses based on the IP Microsoft provided and according to Mansour, a couple of companies in the IP Ventures portfolio are "nearly at that point."