Google pledges to only strike back (not first) in open source patent cases

Google pledges that it won't sue any company over patents for open source software -- unless it gets attacked first.


Google is taking a firmer stance on open source technology and patent wars all at once with a new pledge.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based enterprise has published what it is calling the Open Patent Non-Assertion (OPN) Pledge.

In the plainest terms, Duane Valz, senior patent counsel at Google, explained in a blog post on Thursday morning that this means Google promises "not to sue any user, distributor or developer of open-source software on specified patents, unless first attacked."

Our pledge builds on past efforts by companies like IBM and Red Hat and the work of the Open Invention Network (of which Google is a member). It also complements our efforts on cooperative licensing, where we’re working with like-minded companies to develop patent agreements that would cut down on lawsuits.

And, in addition to these industry-driven initiatives, we continue to support patent reforms that would improve patent quality and reduce excessive litigation.

Valz added that Google has already outlined 10 patents relating to MapReduce, a computing model for processing large data sets first developed at the company, that are protected by this pledge. He continued that Google will be expanding these patents covered by the pledge to other technologies.

Google has long defended its mantra and beliefs in open source technology, which is especially demonstrated through the openness of the Android and Chrome platforms.

Additionally, Google's interest in open source technology and patents might ring a few bells for followers of the Internet giant's legal battle with Oracle that played out in a federal courtroom last year.

In that particular case (which is still ongoing in the appeals process), the open source technology surrounding the Java programming language and how Google used it for its Android mobile operating system was at center stage throughout proceedings.

More specifically, Oracle sued Google in 2010 over copyright infringement in regards to 37 Java APIs used on Android.

Google argued they were free to use because the Java programming language is free to use, and the APIs are required to use the language.

But Oracle tried to make the case that Google had knowingly used the APIs without a license from Sun Microsystems, which was bought by the hardware and software corporation in 2010.