Linux patent defense group expands open-source protection

The Open Invention Network, a Linux patent protection consortium, is expanding its defense to related open-source programs such as KVM, Git, OpenJDK, and WebKit. Mobile Linux distributions like Android, MeeGo, and webOS will also soon be expressly protected.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

The Open Invention Network is extending its patent protection to other Linux-related programs.

The Open Invention Network is extending its patent protection to other Linux-related programs.

The Open Invention Network (OIN) has significantly expanded and updated the Linux System technologies covered by its protective network of royalty-free cross-licenses. Over 700 new software packages--including popular packages such as Kernel Virtual Machine (KVM), Git, OpenJDK, and WebKit--will now receive coverage. In addition, coverage for over 1,000 existing software packages has been updated. Soon, the OIN will also expand its protection over Linux-related mobile operating systems such as Android, MeeGo, Tizen, and webOS.

Patents owned by Open Invention Network are available royalty-free to any company, institution or individual that agrees not to assert its patents against the OIN's broad Linux Definitions. The Open Invention Network license Is designed to spread patent protection among its members. This includes patent cross-licenses and releases from claims of patent infringement among its licensees. This, in turn, encourages collaboration between Linux companies. These patents could also be used to defend Linux vendors and developers from anti-Linux companies' legal attacks.

The OIN was formed in 2005 by IBM, Sony, Philips, Red Hat, and Novell . Since then this Linux intellectual property (IP) defense group has grown by leaps and bounds. Today it has more than 360 members. Two of the most recent companies to join in OIN's defense of Linux's IP are Cisco and Twitter.

The goal of this expansion is to broaden the scope of coverage of the patent cross-licenses and releases from claims of patent infringement between and among the OIN community members. The improved coverage of the OIN license is meant encourage ongoing collaboration and investment from Linux developers, distributors, sellers, resellers and end-users. In addition, during the last year, according Keith Bergelt, the OIN's CEO the thousands of patents covered by OIN's agreements have increased in number by about 35 to 40%.

"This expansion in the coverage of the OIN license furthers OIN's mission to enable and protect Linux," Bergelt added in a statement. It's also meant, Bergelt said in an interview to support freedom of choice for Linux vendors and distributors from attacks by companies like Microsoft.

Bergelt said, "Look at Microsoft. Microsoft's goal is to raise the total cost of ownership of competitive products by forcing companies into signing Microsoft patent cross-licenses so their competitor products are uneconomic compared to Microsoft's products." Indeed you can argue that Microsoft may be the world's most profitable Android company thanks to its patents agreements.

The problem has been that "few, if any companies, actually looked at the patents that Microsoft has asserted against them." For example, in the Motorola case, "Microsoft's patents have been found wanting."

Bergelt noted though that the real issue isn't about quality of patents; it's that Microsoft has "perverted the patent system." Large companies like Microsoft wield patents to stifle competition. The OIN is designed to encourage co-operation, fair competition, and defend companies willing to stand up to Microsoft and other patent bullies, like Apple, in today's non-stop patent wars.

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