Microsoft, Gates Foundation Timeline

November 29, 2010
Revised January 4, 2011


This timeline contains a number of selected data points concerning Microsoft and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). The motivations for this timeline, which features entries for both Microsoft and the BMGF, are several.

Both Microsoft and BMGF are important and extremely powerful in their core areas of operation. According to some estimates, Microsoft has a greater than 90 percent global market share for the operating system used in personal computers. Despite the modest needs of most users, and the availability of several plausible alternatives, Microsoft continues to enjoy a global market share of 80 to 90 percent for applications such as word processing, spreadsheets and presentation graphics. Microsoft is also an important provider of a variety of other products, including software for databases and web hosting services. In the areas where Microsoft enjoys monopoly power, the margins are high and the profits are large. This has not only made Microsoft’s largest shareholders extremely wealthy, it has provided enormous resources to lobby governments and influence institutions and the public. While no longer as intimidating a presence in the technology world as it was in 1997, in part due to the moderating influence of antitrust laws, Microsoft has enormous power, and it uses that power to shape policies in the public and private sector in ways that few are aware, including not only government policies on intellectual property, procurement, innovation, the regulation of telecommunications and competition, but also topics such as climate change and public health. In many of these areas, Microsoft promotes policies that harm consumers and block innovation, such as Microsoft’s well documented attacks on open software standards.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has enormous assets and is growing in size, in part due to a generous 2006 pledge stock from Warren Buffett, the investor. In 2009, the BMGF reported more than $3 billion in grants, and $409 million in operating expenses, mostly directed at projects to improve the lives of poor persons living in developing countries. In the area of public health, there is no donor as influential as the Gates Foundation except the U.S. government. Globally, everyone who seeks a career in public health must anticipate the importance of developing a good relationship with the Gates Foundation, or at least a low profile. The Gates Foundation is doing much good, and Bill Gates is admirably showing leadership in encouraging others to do what he has chosen to do — give away most of his wealth. And while few would say his philanthropy is too much of a good thing, there are clearly significant consequences and indeed also risks in such an enormous concentration of power. The fairly rapid demise of public sector policy-making in key areas of public health, and the reliance upon the Gates family and its staff, creates an impoverished debate over public health priorities, and leads to unchallenged policy changes in others. One area that is quite important concerns the debate over intellectual property rights, and the testing of new models to de-link R&D incentives from product monopolies. While Gates made his money from a software monopoly, he also insists that strong legal product monopolies are the best instrument to fuel innovation for new medical technologies, including drugs, vaccines, diagnostics and medical devices. Despite massive empirical evidence of the failures of the current systems of financing medical innovation, many public health officials correctly anticipate their careers will be harmed if they openly embrace needed reforms.

The centralization of decision-making in the area of R&D for neglected diseases is thought by many to lead to “group think” and other bureaucratic flaws that undermine innovation — an issue that may seem more relevant once one considers the paucity of successful new products (outside of its two areas of monopoly power) that Microsoft has launched in the past twenty years and the durable hostility of Microsoft to open collaborative models of innovation, including those that involve open licensing of intellectual property rights. There are also concerns about the lack of transparency, stakeholder voices and accountability for a system of public health that in some areas has become effectively privatized by one entity. Finally, it is regrettable that the Gates Foundation is a staunch opponent of discussions at the World Health Organization of a possible treaty on medical R&D — an initiative that would create new global norms for sustainable funding of priority medical R&D, promote access to knowledge, and bring needed transparency and new ethical standards to medical research and development system.

The following timeline combines entries involving selected events and actors for these two different, but related entities — Microsoft and the BMGF.



Bill Gates drops out of Harvard, after a dispute over his illegal use of school computers for commercial purposes. According to various accounts, Bill Gates and Paul Allen used a DARA funded PDP-10 computer to develop commercial software for the MITS Altair 8800. Some Harvard officials thought that Gates had broken university rules, and Gates faced a threat of expulsion. To resolve the dispute, Gates reportedly was required by Harvard to place the computer code in the public domain, an act that did not sit well with Gates. According to his father, William Gates, ”There was a flap, no question about it . . . My son felt a little put upon by the Harvard administration’s attitude.” The long term consequences of this dispute may have been larger. To this day, Microsoft and the Gates Foundation are strong advocates of preserving the private intellectual property rights of entities that receive government funds for research.

Micro-Soft was founded April 4, 1975. The initial products were BASIC interpreters developed for the Altair 8800.


February 3, 1976. Bill Gates, signing as a general partner of Micro-Soft, writes an “Open Letter to Hobbyists,” to complain about widespread piracy software.

Who can afford to do professional work for nothing? What hobbyist can put 3-man years into programming, finding all bugs, documenting his product and distribute for free? The fact is, no one besides us has invested a lot of money in hobby software. We have written 6800 BASIC, and are writing 8080 APL and 6800 APL, but there is very little incentive to make this software available to hobbyists. Most directly, the thing you do is theft.

February 20, 1976. Mike Haynes of MNH-Applied Electronics replies to the February 3, 1976 Bill Gates open letter to hobbyists. Haynes tells Gates that his failure to profit from his software development was a consequence of his own poor business practices, which allowed MITS to sell a computer that would be worthless without the software. Suggesting Gates “think a little harder about your-market and how you are going to sell it,” Haynes concludes with this comment.

And, by the way, calling all of your potential future customers thieves is perhaps “uncool” marketing strategy!

Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne founded Apple.

Microsoft purchased a nonexclusive license for 86-DOS from Seattle Computer Products in December 1980 for $25,000.


In July 1981, Microsoft purchased all rights to 86-DOS from Seattle Computer Products for $50,000.

August 1981. IBM releases its first personal computer. Microsoft’s revised version of 86-DOS becomes the most popular operating system for the IBM PC.

Microsoft releases MS-DOS.

In January 1984, Apple computer launches the MacIntosh

May 1985. Steve Jobs was fired from Apple
In November 1985, Microsoft releases version 1.0 of Windows.

June 1990: The Federal Trade Commission launches probe regarding Microsoft and IBM in the PC software market.

October 1990. Tim Berners-Lee begins work on a hypertext GUI browser+editor using the NeXTStep development environment, and coins the term “WorldWideWeb.”

October 1990. Microsoft begins bundling three applications designed for Microsoft Windows 3.0: Microsoft Word for Windows 1.1, Microsoft Excel for Windows 2.0, and Microsoft PowerPoint for Windows 2.0, as Microsoft Office.

AOL for DOS launched.


February 1993. NCSA releases the first alpha version of Marc Andreessen’s “Mosaic for X”. Computing seminar at CERN.

February 1993. The University of Minnesota announces it will charge money for commercial licenses to use “gopher” software. The announcement is followed by a rapid shift to world wide web (WWW) technologies.

1993. Bill Gates proposes to Melinda French. Melinda French was Microsoft employee, originally from Dallas, where she attended the Ursuline Academy of Dallas, an elite Catholic college preparatory high school for girls. French earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science and economics from Duke University in 1986 and an MBA from Duke’s Fuqua School of Business in 1987. She would later serve on the Duke Board from Trustees from 1996 to 2003. Through 2010, Duke University would receive $136 million in grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. According to Time Magazine, Warren Buffett played an important role in the proposal.

When Gates decided to propose to Melinda in 1993, he secretly diverted the chartered plane they were taking home from Palm Springs one Sunday night to land in Omaha. There Buffett met them, arranged to open a jewelry store that he owned and helped them pick a ring.


January 1, 1994. Bill and Melinda Gates are married on the Hawaiian island of Lanai. (More here)

Bill Gates creates the William H Gates Foundation

July 1994: Microsoft signs a consent agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice concerning the terms under which Windows is licensed to PC manufacturers.

October 13, 1994 Mosaic Netscape 0.9 is released. Netscape will soon become the leading Internet browser with an enormous market share. At this point, Microsoft has no Internet strategy at all. Marc Andreessen will later predict that the browser will become the interface and effective operating system for a new generation of web based applications, reducing Microsoft to the suppler of “buggy device drivers” to support the browser. Beginning in 1995, Microsoft will begin to focus on ways to kill Netscape, leading to actions that stimulate the US Department of Justice to file an antitrust case against Microsoft in 1997.

October 1994. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) founded by Tim Berners-Lee. The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and the W3C become the two leading bodies to promote open standards for the Internet.


March 1995. Microsoft and others sought to eliminate legislative requirements for interoperability in House telecommunications bill (HR 1555)

Internet Explorer 1 released on August 16, 1995. It was a reworked version of Spyglass Mosaic, which Microsoft had licensed, like many other companies initiating browser development, from Spyglass Inc.

The Microsoft Network launched as an online service and Internet service provider on August 24, 1995, in connection with the release of the Windows 95 operating system.


June 29, 1996. A WHO Ad Hoc Committee on Health Research recommends the use of “guaranteed markets for new products such as vaccines” in the context of treatments for poor persons living in developing countries. This recommendation is supported by drug and vaccine manufacturers, and later popularized and championed by the Gates Foundation, in connection with arguments that strong intellectual property protection “works” for drug development, so long as there exists sufficient purchasing power for products.

Microsoft creates Slate, a web based magazine.

July 1996. A free web based email service called “HoTMaiL” is launched.


Microsoft acquires Hotmail for $400 million.

Jun 1997. The Gates Library Foundation is established “as a sister philanthropy to the William H. Gates Foundation to help bridge the digital divide.”

August 6, 1997. Bill Gates announces $150 million investment in Apple. Microsoft agrees to invest in new versions of Microsoft Office for Apple. Apple agrees to settle patent disputes with Microsoft, and replace Netscape with Internet Explorer as default browser.
September 1997. Internet Explorer 4 released.

September 29, 1997. The Consumer Project on Technology (CPTech) circulates a sign-on letter, asking the United States Department of Justice to prevent Microsoft from using anticompetitive practices to monopolize the market for Internet browsers. The sign-on letter, which collected more than 1,400 signatures, was followed by several meeting with the Department of Justice.

October 2, 1997, Letter from Ralph Nader to Bill Gates, asking Gates to appear at the upcoming Appraising Microsoft Conference.

October 6, 1997, Ralph Nader press release about the Appraising Microsoft conference.

October 27, 1997. The US Department of Justice files a complaint alleging Microsoft has violated its 1995 consent decree by requiring PC manufacturers to bundle the Internet Explorer Web browser with all computers shipped with Windows 95.

November 13-14 1997. Ralph Nader convenes a three day conference: Appraising Microsoft and Its Global Strategies.

Ralph Nader and James Love write a series of articles about Microsoft in popular publications, such as Slate, Le Monde Diplomatiqque, ComputerWorld, Legal Times, the Dallas Morning News, San Franciso Bay Guardian, San Jose Mercury News, New York Daily News and USA Today.


March 9, 1998. Ralph Nader and CPTech ask six PC makers (Dell, Gateway, Micron, Compaq, HP and Packard Bell-NEC) to offer consumers the opportunity to buy computers with non-Microsoft operating systems pre installed, including the free software operating system Linux.

May 1998. Corel announces a version of WordPerfect that will run on Linux.

June 8, 1998. Ralph Nader and James Love write to Louis V. Gerstner, Jr., the Chairman and CEO of IBM, asking that IBM release the source code of OS/2.

July 27, 1998. Ralph Nader writes Bill Gates, and suggests that Gates and Warren Buffett “sponsor, plan and lead a conference of billionaires and multi- billionaires on the subject of National and Global Wealth Disparities and What to Do About It.” Nader’s letter noted that “more people in the world died (nearly six million) from Tuberculosis and Malaria than in any previous year” and suggested that “with the dual sweep of the Gates-Buffett hands, the serious and consequential plight of humanity would become a matter of high alert for all those business colleagues and acquaintances of yours who aspire to move from success to significance.”

August 4, 1998. Bill Gates responds to Ralph Nader, declining his suggestion, and answering in part that:

It hasn’t been much of a secret that I intend to give away the bulk of my wealth during my lifetime. I regard myself as a steward of that wealth, and on a number of occasions I have acknowledged what a great privilege and responsibility it will be to return it to society.

Melinda and I have made a start on this process during the past few years, and have endowed two philanthropic foundations with more than $1 billion. Those foundations fund efforts in public health, education and the empowerment of the economically disadvantaged. . .

I am in agreement with my friend, Warren Buffett, when he says that people who are successful in one field should be careful about suggesting they know all the answers in other areas. I do encourage everyone I know to participate in philanthropy. However, philanthropy is very personal. I think people should give because they want to give, and not because of pressure from a conference or anyone who claims they have all the answers in this area.

Ralph Nader responds to Bill Gates August 4, 1998 Letter:

Mr. Gates kindly recounted his present and future philanthropic initiatives. My letter was not addressed to his philanthropy. It requested that he and Warren Buffett convene a conference of billionaires on the structural issues of wealth inequality in our country in order to explore, without any pre-judgment, the best experience and ideas for addressing this problem. Ted Turner, who has long held ideas on the leadership responsibility of billionaires, and Sol Price, founder of the Price Clubs and a thinker about these subjects, have told me that this is a meritorious request. I hope Mr. Gates will focus on the specific invitation to convene this conference.

Note: Shortly after this exchange Gates would focus the attention of his foundation on poverty related diseases, including malaria and tuberculosis. In 2006 Buffett asked Gates to manage his own philanthropic efforts. On May 4, 2009, Gates and Buffett convened a meeting of fellow billionaires to discuss philanthropy, and in August 2010, Gates and Buffett announced “the giving pledge.”

August 11, 1998. Micrsoft engineer Vinod Valloppillil prepares a confidential memo for Microsoft officials James Allchin for Paul Maritz, on the “threat” of open source software. The memo begins as follows:

Open Source Software (OSS) is a development process which promotes rapid creation and deployment of incremental features and bug fixes in an existing code / knowledge base. In recent years, corresponding to the growth of Internet, OSS projects have acquired the depth & complexity traditionally associated with commercial projects such as Operating Systems and mission critical servers.

Consequently, OSS poses a direct, short-term revenue and platform threat to Microsoft — particularly in server space. Additionally, the intrinsic parallelism and free idea exchange in OSS has benefits that are not replicable with our current licensing model and therefore present a long term developer mindshare threat.

August 27, 1998. Bill Gates begins giving depositions in the DOJ antitrust case.

October 31, 1998. The Valloppillil memo is eventually leaked to Eric Raymond who publishes an annotated version on October 31, 1998 and dubbed the “Halloween Document, stimulating a number of news reports, such as this report in Salon.

December 2 1998. The Gates Foundation’s global health emphasis “takes root with an initial gift of $100 million to the Bill and Melinda Gates Children’s Vaccine Program.”

December 10 1998: Sun Microsystems files complaint with the European Commission regarding Microsoft’s refusal to provide interoperability information.


March 26, 1999. CPTech, Health Action International (HAI) and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) co-host a meeting in the Palais des Nations in Geneva on “Compulsory Licensing of Patents and Access to Essential Medicines and Medical Technologies: Article 31 of the TRIPS Agreement.” The widely attended and sometimes emotionally-charged event is later described by Merck as “boot camp” for the global movement for compulsory licensing of patents on AIDS drugs.

April 30, 1999. Ralph Nader and CPTech host Appraising Microsoft II: Which Remedies?, the first conference to focus solely on the appropriate remedies for Microsoft’s violations of U.S. antitrust laws. Among the leading suggestions were the break-up of Microsoft into two or more companies, either by licensing the code for all products to more than one firm or splitting the company so the applications and operating systems were in different companies, or a set of interoperability conduct rules, including mandatory disclosures of interface information and compulsory licenses on certain essential technologies. Other proposals including such measures as capping the licensing fees for Windows, in order to discourage bundling of applications with the operating system.

May 1999. The Gates Foundation provides a $25 million grant to the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), which the Foundation describes as “the largest charitable gift to date to combat the AIDS epidemic.”

May 5, 1999. Jeffry Sachs and Michael Kremer publish an op-ed in the Financial Times, arguing that “leading governments should pledge today that they will help purchase for mass distribution an effective malaria vaccine whenever such a vaccine is successfully developed.” Sach and Kremer’s work on this proposal, which is supported by the Gates Foundation and is often presented in subsequent workshops in the context of policy measures that are consistent with strong intellectual property rights, is welcomed by large pharmaceutical companies, and later will be contrasted with various proposals to “delink” R&D costs from product prices.

May 24, 1999. The day the World Health Assembly (WHA) enacts WHA52.19, a resolution concerning intellectual property rights, trade policy and access to medicines, the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) distributes a pamphlet at the WHA, endorsed by UNESCO and several UN agencies, that asserts that patent rights do not interfere with access to vaccines. The pamphlet was funded by the Gates Foundation.

October 15, 1999. MSF wins the Nobel Peace Prize. The day of the announcement, MSF is hosting a high profile meeting on R&D for neglected diseases, and the President of MSF calls for a medical R&D treaty. MSF’s subsequent high profile in the public health community makes it the most important private entity to rival the the influence of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

November 5, 1999. In the monopolization case filed by USDOJ in 1997, Judge Jackson issues a finding of fact: Microsoft’s dominance of personal computer operating systems market constituted a monopoly, and Microsoft had taken various actions to protect that monopoly from competition, including actions involving Linux, Java, Netscape, Lotus Notes, Apple, Real Networks and others firms.


January 2000: Bill Gates stepped down as chief executive officer of Microsoft.

2000. The William H. Gates Foundation merges with the Gates Learning Foundation and is renamed the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

February 9, 2000: The European Commission launched a competition investigation targeting Microsoft.

February 2000. The Gates Foundation gives the first of several grants to National Public Radio, to cover global health issues.

April 3, 2000. Judge Jackson rules that, as a matter of law, Microsoft had committed monopolization, attempted monopolization, and tying in violation of Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act. Jackson proposed breaking Microsoft into two separate units, one to produce the operating system, and one to produce other software components.

September 2000. Merck and Gates foundation each pledge $50 Million to support ARV treatments in Botswana. The offer is initially conditioned upon commitments by the Botswana government to forgo compulsory licensing of patents on AIDS drugs, according to Botswana health officials. The Merck contributions may have been in-kind contributions of AIDS drugs, eligible as an “enhanced deduction” under IRS rules.

October 2, 2000. Microsoft makes $135 million investment in Corel. Corel shuts down its Linux products.

October 12, 2000. The Gates Foundation announces a $1 million grant to the World Health Organization to support the work for the Commission on Macroeconomics and Health, a project chaired by Jeffrey Sachs.

October 24, 2000 . Dr. Margaret Liu joined the Global Health program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, as Senior Advisor for Vaccinology. Her background included consultancies to various projects in the areas of vaccine research and gene therapy, academic research at the Harvard Medical School, and positions as Vice President of Vaccine Research and Gene Therapy at the Chiron Corporation, and as Senior Director at Merck.

December 2000. The Gates Foundation announced the establishment of the annual $1 million award to recognize groups that are dedicating themselves to promoting better health for all citizens of the world.


February 6, 2001. After a negotiation brokered by James Love of CPTech, CIPLA formally agrees to sell the d4T+3TC+NVP AIDS cocktail for $350 per year to MSF. The New York Times reports the CIPLA offer on February 7, 2001. The availability for a $1 per day ARV regime stimulates more interest in the compulsory licensing of patents, and the availability of donor funds for AIDS treatments.

March 5, 2001. The trial of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association v. Nelson Mandela begins in South Africa, generating enormous negative publicity for the pharmaceutical industry and the patent system.

March 12, 2001. Students at Yale successfully press the University to end the patent monopoly for d4T in South Africa.

April 8-11, 2001. The World Health Organization, the WTO, UNAIDS, and others hold a meeting on “Differential Pricing & Financing of Essential Drugs” in Hosbjor, Norway. The meeting is widely seen as an attempt to deflect criticism of the patent system, and to promote the idea that differential pricing by patent holders is an acceptable solution to the access problem so vividly in the press as a consequence of the South Africa trial. Jeffrey L. Sturchio of Merck was one of the industry lobbyists who had pushed for the meeting. The group assisting the WHO in organizing the event is the Global Health Council, a group supported by the Gates Foundation, Merck and others. (Details here and here.)

May 2001. Raymond Gilmartin, the chairman and chief executive of Merck, joins Microsoft’s board of directors.

May 31, 2001. The first annual Gates Award for Global Health is awarded. The $1 million award is administered by the Global Health Council.

June 28, 2001. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued a decision in the United States of America v. Microsoft Corporation antitrust case. In a 125-page decision, the trial court judgment against Microsoft was “affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded in part.” Among other things, the Circuit Court remanded the case “to the District Court for reassignment to a different trial judge,” thereby ending the role of Judge Jackson, who had favored breaking the company up. The court rejected the Microsoft argument that intellectual property rights provided immunity from antitrust action:

Microsoft’s primary copyright argument borders upon the frivolous. The company claims an absolute and unfettered right to use its intellectual property as it wishes: “[I]f intellectual property rights have been lawfully acquired,” it says, then “their subsequent exercise cannot give rise to antitrust liability.” . . . That is no more correct than the proposition that use of one’s personal property, such as a baseball bat, cannot give rise to tort liability.

Slate reported on the decision as follows:

Microsoft today won the skirmish, the battle, and–in light of the leanings of a Bush/Ashcroft Justice Department–probably the war, in its fight against the pesky antitrust suit that’s been nipping at its heels. With much of the decision accusing the behemoth of violating the Sherman Act exploded, Microsoft may now go down in history as the Little Monopolist That Could. In the short run, they’ve bought more time. In the medium run, settlement is probably inevitable, and in the long run, they have almost no possibility of a breakup. Not a bad day’s work for a busy monopolist. (Full disclosure: Microsoft publishes Slate.)

The New York Times described the decision as follows:

A federal appeals court unanimously threw out a lower court’s order today that the Microsoft Corporation should be broken up, although the appeals court found that the company had repeatedly abused its monopoly power in the software business.

The appeals court also sharply chastised the district judge who oversaw the Microsoft antitrust trial and removed him from any further involvement in the case because of derogatory comments he made to reporters about the company and its senior executives.

The unsigned opinion was welcomed by Microsoft, which is no longer under immediate threat of being split into two companies. The company is already preparing the release of a new version of the Windows software operating system, which has features that industry executives say could further consolidate Microsoft’s dominance of the personal computer software market. [Page C1.]

But the opinion was also hailed by federal and state officials for affirming the principle that Microsoft had bullied smaller software rivals, computer-makers and other large companies like the chip-maker Intel, and had broken the law in ways that stifled competition.

October 23, 2001. The iPod, a portable media player designed and marketed by Apple, is launched.

November 14, 2001. A WTO Ministerial meeting adopts the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health.

November 15, 2001. Microsoft launches Xbox.


June 4, 2002. Ralph Nader and James Love write to OMB, asking that the federal government use its procurement to solve issues concerning security and competition in the software market. (Commentary here and here).

December 16, 2002. The Microsoft monopoly power in applications such as word processing are historically connected to the non-transparent and proprietary file formats for documents. In a world where people collaborated and shared documents, Microsoft’s products were often essential for displaying documents consistently. Competitors of Microsoft began work on new standardized open file formats in 2002. The first meeting of the Open Document Format (ODF) Technical Committee met on December 16, 2002. (Microsoft would later mobilize considerable effort to oppose the adoption of the ODF standard, and in 2005 proposed Office Open XML (OOXML), a format difficult to implement by non-Microsoft developers, as an alternative.)


To the surprise of public health NGOs, Philippines trade negotiators report being pressured by the Business Software Alliance (BSA) on a dispute involving a new WTO framework for exporting medicines under a compulsory license. BSA, at the direction of Microsoft, is supporting what is later known as the “30 August 2003 agreement,” on the implementation of Paragraph 6 of the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health. This agreement is widely criticized by public health groups, and strongly supported by large pharmaceutical companies. (More context here).

In 2003, the Gates Foundation hired Hannah E. Kettler to work on Global Health Policy and Finance. Her earlier work at the Institute for Global Health at the University of California San Francisco, on Biotechnology and Global Health, contributed to the 2004 collaboration between BIO and the Gates Foundation, to create BioVentures for Global Health. Between 1998 and 2001 Hannah worked for the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI).

2003 April 29. There is an International Meeting on a global framework for supporting health research and development (R&D) in areas of market and public policy failure at the International Conference Centre of Geneva (CICG), Switzerland. The workshop is hosted by the MSF Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines, Consumer Project on Technology, Oxfam International, Health Action International, and the Third World Network.

October 12, 2003. Mike Anderer writes an email to Chris Sontag, the Vice-President and general manager of the SCOsource, responsible for “overseeing the development and licensing of SCO’s immense intellectual property holdings.” The email, referred to the computer press as Halloween X, later reported in the New York Times and as part of litigation involving IBM, details Microsoft’s secret efforts to help SCO raise $86 million from investors, at a time when SCO is using Linux vendors over highly dubious and controviersal claims that Linux infringes on Unix copyrights that SCO earlier acquired from Novell. Microsoft’s efforts to covertly support the litigation were designed to undermine the use and adoption of Linux, a competitor to various Microsoft operating systems, including but not limited ot Microsoft’s Windows and Windows server editions. More on the SCO linux litigation here. See also reports in CNET, Groklaw and the Wall Street Journal.


Between 2004 and 2008, the Gates Foundation makes grants of $13.7 million to Bio Ventures for Global Health, a group initially associated with BIO, the trade association for the Biotechnology Industry.

January 2004. The Gates foundation gives a grant of $2.1 million to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation “to support a range of efforts to improve quality and quantity of global health reporting in the US and abroad.”

March 24, 2004: The European Commission finds Microsoft guilty of violating EU competition laws and of abusing its market position and imposes a 497 million Euro fine.

As regards interoperability, the Commission’s Decision of March 24, 2004 ordered Microsoft to disclose, within 120 days, complete and accurate interface information which would allow rival vendors to interoperate with Windows, and to make that information available on reasonable and non-discriminatory terms (Article 5 of the Decision).

July 2004. The Gates Foundation announced a $150,000 grant to the National Press Foundation “to help create a cadre of skilled writers, editors and producers from nations heavily impacted by HIV/AIDS.”

August 2, 2004. The International Reporting Project (IRP) at The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) announced it received a $300,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to provide training and fellowships to U.S. journalists covering global health issues. The IRP would received several other grants.

September 10, 2004. Melinda Gates joins the board of directors of the Washington Post.

September 16, 2004. Public Radio International is awarded a “major” grant by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Separately, PRI discloses funding from Merck.

December 21, 2004. Microsoft sells Slate to the Washington Post. (Reports from Slate and Washington Post).

December 2004. The Gates Foundation gives a grant of $6,696,846 to Results, an advocacy group that seeks to “increase the quantity and quality of resources invested in priority interventions to control tuberculosis in high burden countries.”


The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation provide a three-year grant to Harvard to create the Nieman Global Health Reporting Fellowship program.

May 1, 2005. OASIS approved the OpenDocument format as an OASIS Standard.

June 2005. The Gates Foundation gives $430,095 to the World Health Organization, “to produce three TV programs for the BBC World network to create awareness and focus of six diseases of the poor.

August 31, 2005. The State of Massachusetts CIO Peter Quinn announces a new policy will be implemented in Jan. 1, 2007, requiring all electronic documents created by state employees to be stored in two format types: OpenDocument format (ODF), or the Portable Document Format (PDF). The announcement sets off a flury of news reports about the role of governments to push for open document formats, and is supported by many software companies, but opposed by Microsoft. Mitt Romney is Governor of Massachusetts at the time. (More context here).

October 2005. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation provides a $300,000 grant to the Internews Network “to increase frequency and improve the quality of health journalism in developing countries through the Health Journalism Project”

November 16, 2005. OASIS submitted the ODF specification to ISO/IEC Joint Technical Committee 1 (JTC1) under Publicly Available Specification (PAS) rules.

Nov. 21, 2005. Microsoft asks Ecma to establish “an International open technical committee to create an open foundation for innovation with documents by standardizing Office Open XML, the file-format technology behind billions of Microsoft Office documents.” This move is widely seen as an effort to undermine the ODF standard.

December 18, 2005. Time Magazine names Bono, Bill and Melinda Gates Persons of Year.

December 24, 2005. State of Massachusetts CIO Peter Quinn annouces he will resign effective January 9, 2006. Quinn’s resignation comes after a flurry of baseless attacks on his integrity reportedly stimulated by Microsoft public relations consultants and lobbyists. Quinn is cleared of charges he acted improperly in state related travel, but notes:

“Over the last several months, we have been through some very difficult and tumultuous times . . . Many of these events have been very disruptive and harmful to my personal well-being, my family and many of my closest friends. This is a burden I will no longer carry.”

Quinn’s resignation and the personal attacks he suffered serve as a sober deterrent to other CIO’s considering open standards for file formats. However, interest in the topic of open file formats grows, among technology experts.

“Massachusetts is the canary in the mine on this issue,” John Palfrey, clinical professor of law and executive director of the Berkman Center on Internet and Society at the Harvard Law School, said recently. “If Massachusetts gets this right, others will follow.”


February 7, 2006 Tadataka “Tachi” Yamada was appointed as the executive director of the Gates Foundation’s Global Health Program. Before joining the Gates foundation, Yamada served as Chairman of Research and Development (since 2001) and was a member of the Board of Directors (since 2004) at GlaxoSmithKline (links here and here). For an unflattering report of Yamada’s role in GSK efforts to silence critics of the Avandia diabetes medicine, see this report by Jim Edwards in based upon a recently published US Senate investigation. At the time of his appointment, Dr. Yamada was also a trustee of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

February 2006, the Gates Foundation announces a grant of $2,063,016 to Partners in Health, “to improve the delivery of health care to the poor of the world through training, research, and dissemination.”

June 2006. Gates announces that he would be transitioning from full-time work at Microsoft to full-time work at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

On June 25, 2006, Warren Buffett announced a pledge to give the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation 10 million Berkshire Hathaway shares.

July 2006. Horacio Gutiérrez promoted to corporate vice president and deputy general counsel in charge of the Microsoft Corporation’s worldwide intellectual property and licensing group.

July 12, 2006: The European Commission fines Microsoft 280.5 million Euros fine for failing to comply with a 2004 competition order.

July 19, 2006. The Gates Foundation announces a new policy regarding requirements to share data and guarantee access to patented inventions for AIDS. See reports from the Global Health Council, the Wall Street Journal, and blog by Peter Suber. The Gates Foundation announcement includes these details:

Five central facilities will be established, including three laboratory networks for measuring the immune responses elicited by vaccine candidates, a research specimen repository, and a data and statistical management center. As a condition for receiving funding, the newly-funded vaccine discovery consortia have agreed to use the central facilities to test vaccine candidates, share information with other investigators, and compare results using standardized benchmarks. . .
In addition, the grantees are developing global access plans to help ensure that their discoveries will be accessible and affordable for developing countries, where the vast majority of new HIV infections occur.

August 2006. The non-profit Gates Foundation is among investors that lend $350 million to MediaNews Group, to buy four newspapers, including the San Jose Mercury News and Contra Costa Times. (Reports here, here and here)

October 2006. Rob Horsch, a vice president of international development partnerships at Monsanto, is hired as deputy director of the Gates Foundation’s agricultural development initiative.

October 20, 2006. Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD) holds a meeting on the Open Document Format at the Berkman Center at Harvard University. (More here and here).

October 2006, the Gates Foundation gave the William J Clinton Foundation $8,361,840 “to enable ongoing supply of affordable first-line HIV/AIDS medicines to developing countries and to share the Clinton Foundation’s technique and expertise.” [Additional context: Over the next year, Clinton launched an extensive public relations campaign to promote his work in lowering prices for AIDS drugs, aimed at the Nobel peace price committee. (the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize was given to Al Gore, for his work on climate change). In November 2006, Hillary Clinton was reelected to a second term in the U.S. Senate, and was widely considered a leading a candidate for the democratic nominee to be President of the United States.]

November 2006. The Gates Foundation gives the William J Clinton Foundation another grant, this one for $5.3 million, “to bring quality prevention, care and treatment to people living with HIV/AIDS and to improve health systems in resource-poor settings.” From March 2005 to October 2010, the Gates Foundation would give a total of $37.5 million to the Clinton Foundation or the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI).

November 2006. The Gates Foundation gives a $10 million grant to the Center for Global Development “to amplify the impact of policy research and outreach on key public policy debates.”

November 2006. The Gates Foundation gives $6.4 million to the BBC World Service Trust, “to prevent HIV/AIDS transmission in high prevalence districts of four Indian states by using mass media to promote condom use.”

Microsoft launches its own MP3 music player under the trade name Zune.


January 2007. Dick Wilder leaves Sidley Austin, where he represented the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on global intellectual property issues, to become Associate General Counsel for IP Policy at Microsoft, working under Horacio Gutiérrez.

During negotiations on the World Health Organization (WHO)’s Global Strategy and Plan of Action for Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property, the WHO Secretariat gives both the Gates Foundation and Microsoft Corporation permission to attend non-public drafting sessions.

January 2007. Following earlier smaller grants,the Gates Foundation announces a grant to $4,736,587 to the Treatment Action Group, “to strengthen domestic and international HIV community responses to TB/HIV by creating and implementing a research, policy, education, and mobilization agenda with community groups from around the world.”

March 7, 2007. Writing in the Seattle IP, Tom Paulsen reports the Gate Foundation Funded program PATH “has been working with a number of organizations, especially a Nicaraguan non-profit group called Puntos de Encuentro, to insert messages into one of the country’s most popular TV soap operas. They are aimed at empowering adolescent girls and at changing some of the cultural assumptions that lead to domestic violence or sexual abuse. . . . The scripts are based on extensive research,” said Margarita Quintanilla, Ellsberg’s colleague in the Nicaragua office.

October 2007. The Gates Foundation gives $24.5 million to Results, an advocacy group, ” to increase the quantity and quality of resources invested in priority interventions to control tuberculosis in high burden countries.” This follows an earlier 2004 grant of $6.7 million for advocacy work.

October 2007. The Gates Foundation gives a grant of $8.8 million to the The George Institute for International Health for a five year project headed by Mary Moran, “To support a global health R&D resource tracking report that will monitor public and private funders’ annual contributions to global health.”

October 2007. The International Center for Journalists receives a $3.7 million grant “to develop high-impact fellowships in Africa focusing on health issues.”

October 10, 2007. The International Reporting Project (IRP) at The Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) announced a five-year, $1.6 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to provide fellowships to U.S. editors to improve the news media’s coverage of global health and development issues.

November 2007. The Berkman Center at Harvard published a report on interoperability that was funded by Microsoft:
When and How ICT Interoperability Drives Innovation, by Urs Gasser and John G. Palfrey Jr. The report contains a single reference to open document format (ODF). The Berkman recommendation on the use of procurement policy to promote interoperability and open standards are surprisingly pessimistic, and read as follows:

Exercise market power in procurement decisions: The government may favor interoperable products or services when undertaking procurement decisions and thereby provoke or support the market’s tipping towards interoperable solutions. Of course, such an approach requires that the government possess substantial purchasing power in the relevant market. In the area of digital ID solutions, one could observe, for example, Finland’s tax board implemented Liberty Alliance procedures in the process of improving the taxation e-collection process. The effectiveness of this approach is high only in instances where a government’s procurement decisions have a considerable and lasting market impact, which in many areas of the ICT environment may not be the case (take, e.g., the example of DRM-protected music). The approach may turn out to be relatively inefficient in cases of trade-offs of the type where the government has to defer from choosing the offer with the (otherwise) best value in order to contribute to higher levels of interoperability. The flexibility of the procurement approach is comparatively low since the exercise of procurement power may create a technological lock-in on the part of the government (or else cause significant costs if the exercise of procurement power is to be repeated).

December 12, 2007. The Gates Foundation announces a three-year, $5 million grant to Public Radio International (PRI), to report on “global health and development content.”

December 12, 2007. The Gates Foundation announces a 25.7 million grant to DNDI for R&D on neglected diseases. The grant was considered significant because DNDI was initially founded by MSF and until then was one of the few PDPs that was not receiving Gates funding.


During 2008, Professors Thomas Pogge and Aidan Hollis began to promote the “Health Impact Fund” (HIF) as a new mechanism to reward drug development. The HIF proposal was in fact based upon an unpublished 2004 paper by Aidan Hollis, which he wrote after he visited CPTech/KEI and was shown the draft of a U.S. legislative proposal for a medical innovation prize fund that would partly base rewards to drug developers on “the incremental therapeutic benefit of a drug, biological product, or manufacturing process, compared to existing drugs, biological products, and manufacturing processes available to treat the same disease or condition.” The medical innovation prize fund legislation was introduced in the 109th (HR 417) and 110th Congresses (S. 2210) , and a number of other versions of prize funds were proposed to deal with many other topics, including to address various health care needs of developing countries. (More here). These prize fund proposals typically required prize recipients to provide open licenses to intellectual property rights, either voluntarily or non-voluntarily. Before 2008, Pogge and Hollis had separately proposed similar type reward mechanisms (often without attribution to ideas they were borrowing), always with a requirement for open licenses for generic production. Toward the end of 2007, Pogge and Hollis began to consider a new policy embracing opposition to the compulsory licensing of patents, or even requirements for voluntary licensing of patents, opting instead for a voluntary system that would regulate the prices charged by the patent holder, in return for the rewards. The HIF borrowed the signature marketing slogan for the Medical Innovation Prize Fund (it rewards the impact on health outcomes), and presented the HIF as a version of the prize fund that would be more acceptable to big pharmaceutical companies, as it left the supply monopoly intact. In this regard, it was similar to the Advanced Marketing Commitments (AMC) promoted by Professors Kremer, Sachs and others, and several large pharmaceutical companies. In 2008 Pogge persuaded Dick Wilder to join a HIF advisory board, and in a number of conferences, the Gates Foundation has quietly used the HIF to distract attention from the more transformative proposals to de-link R&D rewards from product monopolies.

February 16, 2008. In a New York Times article titled “Gates Foundation’s Influence Criticized,” Donald McNeil reports:

The chief of malaria for the World Health Organization has complained that the growing dominance of malaria research by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation risks stifling a diversity of views among scientists and wiping out the world health agency’s policy-making function.

In a memorandum, the malaria chief, Dr. Arata Kochi, complained to his boss, Dr. Margaret Chan, the director general of the W.H.O., that the foundation’s money, while crucial, could have “far-reaching, largely unintended consequences.”

Many of the world’s leading malaria scientists are now “locked up in a ‘cartel’ with their own research funding being linked to those of others within the group,” Dr. Kochi wrote. Because “each has a vested interest to safeguard the work of the others,” he wrote, getting independent reviews of research proposals “is becoming increasingly difficult.”

February 27. 2008. The European Commission imposes a penalty payment of € 899 million on Microsoft for non-compliance with its obligations under an earlier decision. According to the EC press release:

Today’s Decision, adopted under Article 24(2) of Regulation 1/2003, finds that, prior to 22 October 2007, Microsoft had charged unreasonable prices for access to interface documentation for work group servers. The 2004 Decision, which was upheld by the Court of First Instance in September 2007 (see CJE/07/63 and MEMO/07/359), found that Microsoft had abused its dominant position under Article 82 of the EC Treaty, and required Microsoft to disclose interface documentation which would allow non-Microsoft work group servers to achieve full interoperability with Windows PCs and servers at a reasonable price. “Microsoft was the first company in fifty years of EU competition policy that the Commission has had to fine for failure to comply with an antitrust decision”, said European Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes. “I hope that today’s Decision closes a dark chapter in Microsoft’s record of non-compliance with the Commission’s March 2004 Decision and that the principles confirmed by the Court of First Instance ruling of September 2007 will govern Microsoft’s future conduct”.

15 March 2008. The Times of India reports the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been awarded the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development, for its “pioneering and exemplary philanthropic work around the world and in India in health.”

April 7, 2008. The Norman Lear Center’s Hollywood, Health & Society (HHS) project at the University of California’s Annenbereger School for Communication announces it has received $1.37 million from the Gates Foundation. The money is used to develop stories for television programs that address global health messages promoted by the Gates Foundation. The Gates Foundation announcement is here. According to the Lear Center release, the grant will be used:

to develop an entertainment-education strategy to increase U.S. public support for global initiatives to reduce health disparities and disease around the world. Main goals of the new effort include increasing the accurate presentation of global health topics, such as HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, in popular primetime TV shows; and increasing understanding and support among TV viewers of global health programs that can save lives and reduce disease, especially in Africa.

April 11, 2008. An MSF expert meeting on the WHO IGWG and R&D for tuberculosis meetings, and considers a prize for a low cost diagnostic device for tuberculosis, based upon a proposal by KEI. (Context here)

April 2008. Barbados and Bolivia submit a proposal for a Prize Fund for Development of Low-Cost Rapid Diagnostic Test for Tuberculosis, to the World Health Organization Intergovernmental Working Group (IGWG) on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property, largely modeled after the ideas explored in the April 11, 2008 MSF experts meeting. Among other things, the TB diagnostic prize would require the open licensing of intellectual property rights, and provide for “Incentives for Collaboration and Access to Knowledge,” later referred to as the open source dividend.

May 13, 2008. The WSJ reports Jeff Raikes, a Microsoft employee since 1981 and then head of the Microsoft Office Business Division, is appointed the new CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

July 2008. TACD issues DOC NO. IP 04-08, Resolution on Software Interoperability and Open Standards, which focuses extensively on open document formats.

September 1, 2008. Cornelia Kutterer joins Microsoft’s government affairs team in Brussels as Senior Internet Policy Manager. She was previously head of the Legal Department of the European Consumer’s Organization BEUC where among other things, she worked on open standards and open document formats.

September 2008. The Gates Foundation provides a grant to the X-Prize Foundation “to define the contest parameters for a potential X-prize to design a point of care diagnostic test for TB.” The Gates/X-Prize initiative eventually becomes a competing model for a TB diagnostic prize that would not require the open licensing of intellectual property rights, and would not include the open source dividend.

September 22, 2008. Patricia Q. Stonesifer, who stepped down as chief executive of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is named as the new chair of the Smithsonian Institution. According to the New York Times, she is filling “a position created last year as part of the organization’s large-scale reform effort.”

She will be the first chairman of the Board of Regents, the Smithsonian’s governing body of 17 trustees who are appointed by Congress and include the chief justice of the United States, the vice president, three senators and three representatives, and nine other citizens approved by the board.

October 21, 2008. Transparency International Awarded $6.9 Million Grant from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for its work “to promote government transparency and accountability in sub-Saharan Africa.”

October 2008. The Gates Foundation gives $3.6 million to the NewsHour program to cover global health issues. (Commentary here)

October 2008. The Gates Foundation gives $1.9 million to The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation “to provide education and information regarding the United States’ role in global health to inform policy making and program development and implementation.”

November 2008 The International Center for Journalists receives a $2 million grant “to improve media coverage of development issues in four African countries in order to foster decisions that benefit the poor with special focus on rural development issues, including both agriculture and financial services for the poor.”

February 4, 2008. A new Global Health Program Advisory Panel is announced Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The initial members of the panel include:

  • Harold Varmus (chair), president and CEO of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; former director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health
  • John Bell, Regius professor of medicine at the University of Oxford; chair of the Office for Strategic Coordination of Health Research for the U.K. National Health Service and the Medical Research Council
  • Jay Naidoo, chair of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition; chair of the Development Bank of Southern Africa; former South African minister of reconstruction and development
  • Joy Phumaphi, vice president of the Human Development Network at the World Bank; former minister of health of Botswana
  • Sujatha Rao, Additional Secretary and Director General, National AIDS Control Organization, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India
  • Daniel Vasella, chairman and CEO of Novartis AG


The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation report grants of $3.055 billion in 2009, plus expenditures on operating expenses of $409 million. The grants were broken down into $1.8 billion for global health, $677 million for global development, and $489 for the United States. Grants identified as “Policy and Advocacy” totalled $365 million for all areas, or $1 million per day.

January 2009. The India government introduces the Protection and Utilisation of Public Funded Intellectual Property Bill in the Rajya Sabha (the upper house of the Parliament of India). The bill is sometimes referred to as the India Bayh-Dole Act, because it attempts to provide a more uniform policy regarding the management of patent rights on government funded research. Microsoft has lobbied extensively for the introduction of the bill, and continues to lobby for its adoption.

January 12-14, 2009. The World Health Organization convenes the first meeting of the Expert Working Group (EWG) on R&D Financing. The meeting is shrouded in secrecy, and announced only after it is over. The three day event is the only time the EWG will meet with non-members. The WHO Secretariat invites the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA), the Gates Foundation, and several groups that are funded by the Gates Foundation. None of the critics of the existing IPR regime are invited to attend. The EWG will subsequently ask Dr. Mary Moran, a consultant to the Gates Foundation, to prepare a controversial report of the EWG that rejects proposals to discuss a medical R&D treaty, or to de-link R&D costs from product prices. (More context here, here and here).

February 3, 2009. Elias Zerhouni, the head of the NIH under the Bush Administration, joins Gates Foundation as a Senior Fellow.

February 25, 2009. President Obama announced the appointment of Gary Locke, the former Governor of the State of Washington, as the Secretary of Commerce. When appointed, Locke was partner at Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, and had been a consultant to Microsoft.

March 2009. The Gates Foundation announced a $767,800 grant to the Regents of the University of California at Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism “to foster in-depth and high quality media coverage of agricultural development issues in Africa through an intensive journalism training program”

“We are thrilled,” said Professor and Dean Neil Henry, a former Africa correspondent for the Washington Post.

March 2009. The Gates Foundation gives $1.3 million to the BBC World Service Trust “to support improved media coverage of development issues in Africa through a facility to coordinate and streamline media development investments, research, and activities across the continent.”

March 3, 2009. The Open Document Format (ODF) Alliance petitions the new Obama Administration to “direct executive departments and agencies to use universally accessible document formats as part of the Open Government Directive.” Microsoft lobbies against this recommendation, which would undermine its monopoly power in both the markets for personal computer operating systems and office productivity software such as word processing, spreadsheets and presentation graphics.

March 4, 2009. Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), announced that Dr. Nils Daulaire, the former president and CEO of the Global Health Council (1998-2009), will join HHS as Director of the Office of Global Health Affairs on March 22. While at the Global Health Council, Nils had established the annual $1 million Gates Award for Global Health. Among the leading funders of the Global Health Council were the Gates Foundation and the Merck Foundation. Daulaire has been replaced at the Global Health Council by Jeffrey L. Sturchio, who earlier held several different positions at Merck dealing with public and external affairs.

March 19, 2009. Howard Zucker and Richard Wilder lead a study group at the Kennedy School Institute of Politics on “Myths, Rumors, and the Art of Reality: The Private Sector’s Role in Public Health.”

April 2, 2009. By Tim Arango and Brian Stelter of the New York Times report on the Gates Foundation funding of plots in television shows.

The huge foundation, brimming with billions of dollars from Mr. Gates and Warren Buffett, is well known for its myriad projects around the world to promote health and education.

It is less well known as a behind-the-scenes influencer of public attitudes toward these issues by helping to shape story lines and insert messages into popular entertainment like the television shows “ER,” “Law & Order: SVU” and “Private Practice.” The foundation’s messages on H.I.V. prevention, surgical safety and the spread of infectious diseases have found their way into these shows.

Now the Gates Foundation is set to expand its involvement and spend more money on influencing popular culture through a deal with Viacom, the parent company of MTV and its sister networks VH1, Nickelodeon and BET. It could be called “message placement”: the social or philanthropic corollary to product placement deals in which marketers pay to feature products in shows and movies. Instead of selling Coca-Cola or G.M. cars, they promote education and healthy living.

Last week in New York Mr. Gates met with Philippe P. Dauman, the chief executive of Viacom, to go over a long-in-the-works initiative that would give Mr. Gates’s philanthropic organization something any nonprofit would cherish: an enormous megaphone. The new partnership, titled Get Schooled, involves consultation between Gates Foundation experts and executives at all Viacom networks that make programming decisions. Their goal is to weave education-theme story lines into existing shows or to create new shows centered on education.

“We are committing the entire creative power of our organization,” Mr. Dauman said. “The whole company is really engaged behind this.”

While Viacom is donating on-air time for public-service announcements, and foundation officials are consulting with programming executives, the foundation is also putting up money for production — not just to make public-service announcements but also to indirectly subsidize Viacom’s programming.

April 7, 2009. The Colbert Report comments on the Gates Foundation message placement.

April 14, 2009. Following the January 2009 meeting of the WHO Expert Working Group on R&D, Margaret Chan, the Director General of the World Health Organization, made the following comment at a WIPO conference on Intellectual Property and Public Policy:

Some in civil society had a radical proposal: abolish the current system of intellectual property and patent protection, and replace it with something inherently more responsive to health needs and concerns. As you know, this was not the solution eventually agreed upon. Instead, many imaginative strategies have been devised to circumvent the consequences of market failure for neglected populations and neglected diseases.

The Statement by Chan, while inaccurate regarding the policies adopted by the World Health Assembly, illustrated the degree to which she shared the anti-reform sentiments of the Gates Foundation — the largest private donor to the WHO. (Context here).

May 5, 2009. Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and David Rockefeller convene a private meeting with several billionaires, to discuss philanthropy. Attending the meeting were Oprah Winfrey, George Soros, Ted Turner, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Eli and Edythe Broad, John Morgridge (the former CEO of Cisco) and his wife Tashia, Peter Peterson (the senior chairman of the Blackstone Group), Julian Robertson (the founder of Tiger Management Corp.), and Patty Stonesifer (the former CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation). (The Carol J. Loomis account of the meeting is here)

May 9, 2009. David McCoy and three co-authors publish an article in the Lancet, titled “The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s grant-making programme for global health.” The Lancet also publishes the editorial, “What has the Gates Foundation done for global health?“. Together the article and the editorial set off a renewed debate over the role of the Gates Foundation in shaping global health priorities and norms.

May 29, 2009. In an article profiling Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft’s chief intellectual property officer, Intellectual Assets Management magazine reports Microsoft’s alarm over skepticism of the usefulness of software patents, and its concern over proposals by governments to use open source software or to override strong intellectual property rights to promote interoperability. Gutierrez singles out Microsoft’s concerns “over the circumstances under which a compulsory license of intellectual property may be warranted.” But Microsoft also plays attention to the broader debates over intellectual policy.

The [IP policy] team is led by Richard Wilder . . . Wilder also previously worked with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on its global health efforts. The IP Policy team’s mission is to develop a range of global policy initiatives dealing with everything from patent reform and IP’s role in driving R&D in new healthcare and energy technologies, to the steps that governments ought to take to promote small business IP creation and maintain a sustainable, balanced approach to IP protections so that these continue to promote innovation and economic growth around the world.

The following reference is made to an earlier draft paper titled IQ + IP: “A new IP Policy Framework:”

the group recommended that the company initiate a discussion around whether to undertake a host of new initiatives on the intellectual property front. These include . . . the encourage of new IP protections through industrial design rights, in part to copy with cross-border software downloads and software as a service offerings; and support for the passage of Bay-Dole-style legislation in developing countries to promote the commercialization of university sponsored innovations.

June 2009. IP Watch reports that Microsoft has taken an active role in the debate in South Africa over new rules concerning intellectual property rights from publicly funded research and development.

October 2009. A year after Patricia Q. Stonesifer, the former CEO of the Gates Foundation, is named as the new chair of the Smithsonian Institution, the Smithsonian receives a $10 million grant from the Gates Foundation. By the end of 2010, the Smithsonian Institution will have received $50 million in new grants from Gates Foundation.

October 2009. Under the category of Advocacy and Public Policy, the Gates Foundation provides a grant to $750,000 for general support to Oxfam-America Inc. Oxfam receives four other grants in 2009 for agricultural development and emergency response for a total of $4.3 million.

October 2009. The One Campaign receives two grants totaling $35 million from the Gates Foundation “to promote health, agriculture, and development.

October 2009. American University receives $1.1 million “to identify factors that shape the effectiveness of global health policy communities, knowledge that these communities may then use to build capacity to secure funds, promote evidence-based policy and deliver effective health interventions to poor people in low-income countries.”

October 1, 2009. Ms Kanuru Sujatha Rao,a member of the Gates Foundation Global Health Program Advisory Panel, is appointed Secretary of the Health and Family Welfare in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in India.

October 14, 2009. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announces $120 million in agriculture grants, much of it focused on technology to improve productivity of farming, including but not limited to new biotechnology plant varieties, as well as a $10 million grant to the Washington, DC based American Institutes for Research for a “Farmer Voice Radio,” described as a network of radio broadcasters, agricultural experts providing “agriculture-related radio programming” in Sub-Saharan Africa, and $4.7 million to the Washington, DC based Grameen Foundation, “to develop a network of 4,000 community knowledge workers in Uganda who use mobile devices to increase the reach and relevance of agricultural information.”

October 15, 2009. Bill Gates gives a speech at the 2009 World Food Prize symposium, where he defends agricultural biotechnology to enhance productivity in farming.

November 2009. The Gates Foundation announces a $750,000 grant to National Public Radio “to support coverage of education issues on NPR programs, including the “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”

November 2009. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation receives $9.9 million “to provide credible, non-partisan information and analysis about a range of global health issues.”

November 2009. The Results for Development Institute announces the creation of a new Gates-funded program to Assess Innovations in Global Health R&D Policy and Financing, including innovation inducement prizes and patent pools.

November 2009. WGBH Educational Foundation receives a $1 million grant “to support education-related programming on Frontline.”

November 2009. Stanford University receives $474,990 “to support a series of research and polling studies aimed at understanding the messages media delivers about education through news and entertainment programming, and gauging American public opinion on key education topics.”

November 10, 2009. Rajiv Shah is nominated as Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Shah had earlier joined the Obama adminstration as undersecretary for research, education, and economics at the Department of Agriculture. Prior to joining the Obama Administration, Shah worked for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where he had served as Director of Agricultural Development, Director of Financial Services, and on the Foundation’s vaccine investments. Shah also played a role in the creation of the International Finance Facility for Immunization, which is connected with efforts to push the advanced purchase/marketing fund approach to stimulating vaccine development. Washington Post profile here.

December 16, 2009. Microsoft agrees to an “undertaking” with the European Commission regarding the tying of Internet Explorer to Windows and related interoperability issues.


January 2010. After a four year debate, the Danish Parliament votes to require government data be stored in open formats, using a list of accessible formats that explicitly included ODF and excluded MSOOXML.

January 2010. The Report of the WHO Expert Working Groups on R&D Financing is presented to the WHO Executive Board. Earlier the IFPMA (the international trade association for the pharmaceutical industry), had circulated a confidential copy of the report to its members, before the report was officially adopted, indicating the areas where it had had success influencing the report, and the areas where friendly members of the Expert Working Group might be contacted to make further changes. The IFPMA email and analysis later was published on Wikileaks and attracted considerable attention in the press. The report was subsequently criticized by public health groups, academic experts and the members of the WHO Executive Board, for the poor quality of its analytical work, the rejection of nearly all proposals that were opposed by the pharmaceutical industry or the Gates Foundation, and its disregard for the terms of reference, which included to consider proposals to de-link R&D costs from product prices. Most of the report was prepared under the supervision of Dr. Mary Moran, a member of the Expert Working Group who was separately heading up an $8.8 million Gates funded analysis of R&D funding. The highest rated proposal for R&D funding was a 5 page proposal for an Industry Research and Development Facilitation Fund (IRFF) that Moran had written in 2005, which had never been formally submitted to the EWG. Among the other highly rated proposals was an unpublished proposal by IAVI, a group for which Moran was a consultant, and a one and a half page proposal by the IFPMA asking for $10 billion in grants. The Expert Working Group rejected all “end product prizes” that featured open licensing of inventions and a proposal to hold a meeting to discuss possible elements of a medical R&D treaty. The Expert Working Group said the Health Impact Fund “deserves further consideration for some of its innovative aspects, which could perhaps be captured in other ways.” More context here, here and here)

Thomas Pogge subsequently recruits Mary Moran to join the Health Impact Fund’s scientific advisory board.

The Brookings Institution receives 5 grants totaling $8 million.

January 8, 2010. The Gates Foundation hires Sam Dryden as its new director of agricultural development. Dryen replaces Dr. Rajiv Shah, who in January 2010 was sworn in as the administrator for USAID. Before joining the Gates Foundation, Dryen was a managing director of New York-based Wolfensohn & Company, an investment company founded by former World Bank President James Wolfensohn. Dryden formerly headed Emergent Genetics, which developed and markets seeds, and as the third largest cotton seed company in the U.S., was acquired by Monsanto in 2005. Dryden had also been president and chief executive of Agrigenetics, a seed company now part of Dow AgroSciences. His career began in the federal government as an analyst with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. Dryen’s appointment was criticized by organizations opposed to the use of genetically modified crops. (Reports here and here).

January 13, 2010. The Seattle Times reports the Gates Foundation will pay “is going to pay to produce a new Dominican Republic soap opera, or “telenovela,” with saving money as a recurring theme.”

January 29, 2010. Bill and Melina Gates announce at Davos that they will donate $10 billion over the next decade to research new vaccines and bring them to the world’s poorest countries

March 2010. The Gates Foundation is a grant of $1 million to the Washington, DC based Center for the Study of the Presidency, “to support an endowed fellowship for leadership, ethics, and integrity.” The honorary co-chairs of the Center are George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, and William J. Clinton.

March 1, 2010. The Wall Street Journal reports that Donna-Bea Tillman, the director of the Office of Device Evaluation at the Food and Drug Administration, will join the Washington office of Microsoft Corp, where she will “beef up the development of medical information-technology systems and expand the profile of its health group in Washington.”

March 31, 2010. The Gates Foundation announced the hiring of Richard Henriques as its new Chief Finanical Officer. Before joining the foundation, Henriques was senior vice president of finance and corporate controller of Merck, where he focused on operations, governance, strategic planning, performance measurement, and cost management within the pharmaceutical and pharmacy benefit management industries.

April 2010. The Gates Foundation gives a grant of $400,000 to Crosscut Public Media.

April 2010. Through its seat of the UNITAID board of directors, the Gates Foundation nominates a Microsoft patent lawyer to the founding board of the UNITAID medicines patent pool. The UNITAID board deferred action on all nominations.

April 29, 2010. The WHO reports the Gates Foundation provided $339 million in grants to the WHO during the period 2008 to 2009, making the private foundation its second largest donor, after the United States government.

May 2010. Anatole Krattiger is appointed Director, Global Challenges Division, for WIPO. Previously Krattiger worked with the Gates Foundation on intellectual property aspects of biotechnology, as well as managing the global access strategy of a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-funded program for the development of pneumonia and meningitis vaccine for newborns.

May 5, 2010. In a teleconference on intellectual property issues, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) asks donors to share their views. The Gates Foundation was represented by Aline Flower, Associate General Counsel at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The European Commission was represented by Marc Debois. The notes from this call include the following:

2. What terms and condition donors generally use with direct recipient organizations on intellectual property matters?

Gates Foundation shared that the foundation’s general approach is to allow grantee institutions to seek IP protection provided that they fulfill the foundation’s “Global Access” commitments and charitable objectives of the grant:

  • Results of work, e.g. scientific best practices, are shared to the scientific community
  • Access to products developed (e.g. improved seeds) in terms of quantity, supply, and price is provided to farmers

One component of Global Access is ensuring “freedom to operate” and securing permissions from any third parties whose rights the proposed research project relies upon. Gates Foundation commented that intellectual property issues are very significant, should not be ignored and should be addressed through contractual provisions. There is a need to address key critical aspects and work on particulars.

European Commission expressed that as a policy point of view, it is important that results of work are in the public domain as global public goods and not belong to particular institutions.

May 21, 2010. After extensive consultations and expressions of dissatisfaction with the report of the 1st expert working group on R&D financing, the World Health Assembly adopts a new resolution (WHA 63.28) on the “Establishment of a Consultative Expert Working Group on Research and Development: Financing and Coordination.” The Consultative Expert Working Group is asked to reevaluate the work of the first group, and in particular to examine all of the proposals singled out for rejection by the 1st working group. (More context here)

June 2010. The Gates Foundation announces a $275,000 grant to the Center for Education Reform for a “Media Bullpen, . . . to offer and analyze real time education news.”

June 2010. The Gates Foundation announces a grant of $10 million to the Smithsonian Institution, “to support the establishment and launch of the Smithsonian Consortia.”

June 7, 2010. Melinda Gates announces a pledge by the Gates Foundation to “invest $1.5 billion over the next five years to support maternal and child health, family planning, and nutrition programs in developing countries.” The announcement stimulates several blogs and discussions about the Gates Foundation views on abortion. Melinda Gates, who is Catholic, supports several organizations to promote family planning, but does not allow the Gates Foundation money itself to be used to advocate or provide health care for “safe” and abortions. For more on the abortion issue, see Marcy Bloom’s “June 14, 2010 article, Gates Foundation Bans Abortion,” and Sarah Wildman’s “Melinda Gates Can’t Run From the Abortion Controversy“. NPR, which receives large grants from the Gates Foundation for its reporting on education and global health, reported on the announcement, and offered these observations on the abortion issue:

Gates tried to steer clear of the abortion issue when she announced the grant at the “Women Deliver” conference in Washington, D.C., although Norris noted the conference calls for safe and legal abortions. “We don’t want to be part of the controversy or stem that controversy,” Gates said. Giving women family planning tools can reduce the demand for abortions, she added.

July 16, 2010. The Simithsonian issues a press release discussing its Consortia Grand Challenges program.

July 2010. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation annouce a grant to $1.8 million to National Public Radio “to support balanced, in-depth coverage of global health and development in the developing world.”

August 2010. Gates and Buffett announce “the giving pledge.”

August 2010. The Gates Foundation gives $2 million to Participant Media, LLC “to execute a social action campaign that will complement Paramount’s marketing campaign of Waiting for Superman.”

August 2010. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announce a one year grant of $1 million to Pro Publica, Inc. ProPublica describes itself as follows:

ProPublica is an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. ProPublica is a new kind of institution: staffed with top talent but unencumbered by print legacy costs. Our work focuses exclusively on truly important stories, stories with “moral force.” We do this by producing journalism that shines a light on exploitation of the weak by the strong and on the failures of those with power to vindicate the trust placed in them.

September 14, 2010. The Guardian announced the launch of global development website with Gates Foundation funding.

The website features the best of the Guardian’s writers on development, including Madeleine Bunting, Sarah Boseley, Larry Elliott and John Vidal, as well as bringing together a selection of the most distinctive development blogs from around the world and a monthly ‘Poverty Matters’ podcast. In keeping with’s mutualisation strategy, the website will focus on linked reporting and response, giving readers the ability to follow conversations and debates, compare sources and links, and get involved. It is also being supported by more than 20 of the world’s leading development experts, including Nobel prize winner Amartya Sen and American economist and Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, Jeff Sachs.

September 2010. Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) receives $367,941 to “support a reporting fellowship to influential journalists in the U.S. media to cover global health stories in different countries around the world.”

September 2010. KEI is told by the WHO Secretariat that it fears that institutional support for a medical R&D treaty will put at risk the considerable funding it receives from the Gates Foundation.

September 2010. Oxfam-America Inc receives three grants from the Gates Foundation,including $4,297,750 “to strengthen agricultural extension delivery in Ethiopia” and two grants totaling $1 million to address flooding in Senegal, Gambia and Guatemala.

September 2010. The Gates Foundation announces a grant of $30 million to the Smithsonian Institution, “to support an endowment.”

September 8, 2010. Sundance Institute today announced a special collaborative project with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation “designed to harness the power of film to create communities and inspire action on issues related to global health, poverty and education.” Reports here, here and here. According to Cara Mertes, Director, Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program.,

“Documentary storytelling is incredibly effective at highlighting complex realities by humanizing the issues. . . Creating these films with independent filmmakers already exploring the issues that the Gates Foundation addresses has uncovered some extraordinary stories that will help galvanize audiences towards awareness and action.”

October 2010. KEI is contacted by a television journalist for the PBS News Hour who wants to do a story “showing the good things” that are being done to solve public health problems in Africa. His notes his work is funded by the Gates Foundation.

October 2010. The Gates Foundation gives $2.3 million to AllAfrica Foundation “to support compelling coverage of the challenges, opportunities, and advances of sustainable development efforts to reduce poverty.” This is associated with AllAfrica Global Media, “a multi-media content service provider, systems technology developer and the largest electronic distributor of African news and information worldwide. . . . The AllAfrica family includes AllAfrica, Inc., registered in Delaware, and the AllAfrica Foundation, a non-profit organization that sponsors the Charlayne Hunter-Gault Fellowship for African women journalists, and operates and, digital commons for African development and peace networks, as well as a new multimedia HealthAfrica initiative.” Tom Paulson wrote about this on December 6, 2010, in Gates Foundation partners with African media group In his account, notes that:

“These stories will reach policy makers, opinion leaders, NGOs and a wide public across Africa and around the world,” said AllAfrica Global Media co-founder and chair, Amadou Mahtar Ba, who also heads the African Media Initiative (also partly funded by Gates). “Besides being a voice for Africa, the project will support our media partners by providing content, and by offering opportunities for journalists to expand their experiences and their capabilities. . . .

At a time when funds for international development must compete with other pressing priorities,” said AllAfrica’s head of operations and west Africa director Rougui Diaw, “it is vital to showcase the many successes, without ignoring continuing challenges.”

October 6, 2010. ABC news announces the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will provide a $1.5 million grant to fund overseas travel and foreign production costs for its reporting on global health. The New York Times report on this grant is here. Separately, a journalist at the New York TImes told KEI he was approached by the Gates Foundation with a similar offer, which was declined, due to the NYT policy against outside funding of its travel budgets.

October 2010 The Steps International Foundation recieves $1.6 million from Gates Foundation “to support a global documentary series on the causes of and innovative solutions to persistent global poverty.”

October 2010. The Aspen Institute Inc receives $450,248 from the Gates Foundation “to support global development as a strategic interest by strengthening links between the development, diplomacy, and defense communities within the US government.”

October 21, 2010 article by Tom Paulson: Thoughts on the Gates Foundation paying media to cover global health and development.

November 12, 2010. Melinda Gates resigns from the board of directors of the Washington Post. (Official press release here.) Warren Buffett remains on the Post board, a position he has held since 1974. (For additional context, see: December 3, 2010, Melinda Gates Leaves Post Board After Report Criticizes Kaplan. )

November 10, 2010. The Simthosonian Institute issues a press release, , which says “The Smithsonian Institution has received $50 million in grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support three new programs: $30 million for broadening access to the Institution through a Youth Access Endowment, $10 million for the four consortia identified in the Smithsonian’s Strategic Plan and $10 million in fall 2009 for the National Museum of African American History and Culture.”

November 16, 2010. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced a $500 million pledge to support projects that encourage poor people around the world to save money.

December 14, 2010. President Obama meets with Warren Buffett and Bill Gates at the White House” to discuss the economy and the billionaires’ philanthropic endeavors.” According to one report, “Obama called for the Oval Office meeting, which also included Gates’ wife, Melinda, to discuss the Giving Pledge project, started by Buffett and Gates to encourage wealthy U.S. individuals and families to give most of their fortunes to charity.” News reports here, here, and here.

Additional Links