Google joins Open Invention Network patent commons as a full member

Google joins IBM, NEC, Novell, Philips, Red Hat and Sony as a full member of the Open Invention Network open-source and Linux patent protection organization.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

The Open Invention Network (OIN), the organization that was formed to promote collaboration and patent non-aggression in support of Linux, announced on Wednesday that Google has joined IBM, NEC, Novell, Philips, Red Hat and Sony as a full member of OIN.

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Google has long been involved with OIN. Indeed, in 2007 Google became OIN’s first end-user licensee.

OIN was formed in 2005 by IBM, Sony, and Philips, in addition to Linux distributors, Red Hat and Novell. The group was created to defend Linux from patent trolls and other attacks from patent holders. It tries to do this with its own patents which are then available royalty-free to any company, institution or individual that agrees not to assert its patents against Linux. While it hasn't been done, these patents could also, in theory, be used by the OIN, or an OIN member, against a hostile company in a patent war.

OIN now has a strategic portfolio of over 600 patents and patent applications. Once in OIN's hands these cannot be used by patent trolls. The patents are also available to be used by OIN members in defensive lawsuits against trolls.

As the years have gone by other companies, such as Cisco and Twitter, which people don't think of as being Linux businesses, have joined the group. Over 600 other businesses, including Dropbox, have become OIN patent licensees.

“Linux is one of the most innovative platforms ever invented. It has helped to spark unprecedented levels of mobile, networking, and computing capabilities while dramatically lowering costs,” said Keith Bergelt, the OIN's CEO in a statement. “For many years, Google has recognized the value and power of Linux. By transitioning its relationship with OIN from Associate Member to Full Member, Google is once again demonstrating its leadership and commitment to Linux and open source. We are pleased to welcome them as a Full Member of OIN.”

“Linux and open source are at the core of the software industry. Protecting open source is critical to us, our users, and to the ongoing health of the Internet,” said Chris DiBona, Google's Director of Open Source in an interview. “We’re proud of our new role within OIN."

DiBona added that now was the time for Google to fully join OIN. He also said that Google has been "very happy with the direction OIN has been going" and that Google is looking forward to working with OIN on patent issues.

At this time, Google did not announce that it would be contributing any of its patents to the OIN. Earlier this year, Google asserted in its Open Patent Non-Assertion Pledge that it would not sue open-source related companies that didn't sue Google. In August, Google added more patents to its list of patents that were covered by this pledge. In contest, Google's joining the OIN is just another step forward in Google's ongoing opposition to patent trolls.

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