US Patent No. 7,479,950 covers a technology that lets users place objects on a surface and have them associated with data or media stored on the computer's hard drive. A user could place a set of car keys on the surface and the computer could bring up that person's schedule or list of favourite TV shows airing that night.
Microsoft says the company is ranked fourth among companies with the most US patents. In 2008 alone, Microsoft rival IBM was granted 4,186 patents, a record for a single year, to Microsoft's 2,030.
Microsoft says it spends roughly US$8 billion a year on R&D, a figure it says tops any other technology company.
Curtis Wong, who is one of four Microsoft Research co-inventors of the technology, said: "The goal of this patent is to make the interaction between the physical and virtual worlds a little more seamless."
Wong, who has authored 45 patents, also was a co-inventor in 2006 on Microsoft's 5,000th patent, a technology that let people become spectators in online video games. Last year, Wong was part of a group that launched the Worldwide Telescope.