Microsoft and Olympus have signed a patent cross-licensing agreement that allows each company access to some of the other's patents.

The companies hope the deal will promote the exchange of information and use of patented technologies in various consumer electronics products, particularly products that involve digital imaging technologies. The precise patents covered by the deal were not disclosed. Financial details were also not specified.

The agreement is the latest in a string of over 200 patent cross-licensing deals signed by Microsoft since it launched an intellectual property licensing programme in late 2003. To date it has reached agreements with companies including Cadence Design Systems, Fuji Xerox, Kenwood, LG Electronics, Nortel, Novell and Samsung Electronics.

Such agreements make it easier for companies to access patented information held by others, and also smooth the way for it to be included in their products. Companies typically closely guard such information and lawsuits contesting intellectual property are common. The deals also help to reduce the number of lawsuits, which cost companies both time and money.