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Innovation

Can Google get OIN over the enterprise hump?

Consider the following: You're a big open source shop that spends a lot of time developing Linux code. Now you get a vehicle to cross-license Linux-related patents without all the licensing hubbub from the likes of IBM, Oracle, and Google.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor on

Consider the following: You're a big open source shop that spends a lot of time developing Linux code. Now you get a vehicle to cross-license Linux-related patents without all the licensing hubbub from the likes of IBM, Oracle, and Google.

Doesn't it make sense to become a licensee?

Google announced that it will join the Open Invention Network (OIN), a patent sharing group. What's the big deal? Google is a Linux user not some vendor. The general idea: OIN members don't have to fret about patent FUD. They can actually focus on developing software.

Now as basically everyone knows Google has made quite a nice living using Linux on commodity hardware to build its infrastructure. The brainpower there is immense. Couple Google's knowledge with Oracle, IBM, NEC and Sony, Red Hat and Novell and the OIN looks a lot more attractive.

The OIN says it was formed "to ensure that individual programmers, independent software vendors, distributors and businesses have open access to intellectual property related to the Linux System."

So far the OIN, launched in 2005, has been light on the businesses. Most of its members are technology titans. Google changes that equation a bit. If the OIN is good enough for a user like Google perhaps it makes sense for your company too.

Could Google be a tipping point to get enterprises interested? Possibly.

In Google's official blog, Chris DiBona, Google's open source programs manager, writes:

You'll often hear members of our open source team say, “Every time you use Google, you’re using Linux.” It’s absolutely true. Check a Google engineer’s workstation, and you’ll probably find it's running Linux. Do a search on Google.com, and a Linux server will return your results. Ever since Google got its start, Linux has given us the power and flexibility we need to serve millions of users around the world.

Why wouldn't a financial services firm with a heavy Linux concentration be interested in what Google has cooked up? After all Google has open sourced millions of lines of code.

It's quite possible that Google gives the OIN more sex appeal (no offense Big Blue and Oracle).

To be sure, there's a mental hurdle for corporations to clear before joining the OIN. The biggest hurdle: Companies don't like to share what they perceive as potential competitive advantage. I'd argue that those worries may be insignificant if you're sharing with the likes of Google, Oracle and IBM.

Ryan Paul at Ars Technica notes that the OIN isn't perfect. In an ideal world we'd get patent reform. Since patent reform isn't happening any time soon it may be time to throw some corporate oomph behind the OIN.

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