The American and Chinese trade war is near to boiling. The American attempt to extradite Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou has failed; China might be behind the Marriott data breach; and China might've caused a massive internet disruption. But one perpetual sore point between the US and China -- intellectual property (IP) abuse -- is taking a step for the better. Alibaba and its affiliate Ant Financial are joining the Open Invention Network (OIN), the pro-open source and Linux patent-protection group.
Alibaba -- think of it as China's Amazon and eBay -- has a net worth of over $80 billion dollars. It's the biggest Chinese company to join the OIN. That's important because China has led the world in patent filings for over six years.
According to one patent attorney who wished to remain anonymous, "China has run away patent filing with well over two million patents a year. They're trying to swamp the patent world. This move will help minimize the patent litigation risk for all companies working in China."
The OIN is an open-source patent consortium. It's the largest patent non-aggression community in history. Its members include Google, IBM, Red Hat, SUSE, and to everyone's recent surprise, Microsoft. The OIN patent license and member cross-licenses are available royalty free to anyone who joins the OIN community.
Specifically, the OIN patents cover Linux and its related technologies. For example, Android, Apache, Ansible, Docker, Chrome OS, GNOME, KDE, Kubernetes, and LibreOffice, are all protected by OIN.
"The e-commerce, computing and financial services industries are experiencing significant disruption, driven by global leaders that recognize the benefits of shared innovation which enables them to effectively differentiate their services higher in the technology stack," said OIN CEO Keith Bergelt in a statement. "We are pleased that Alibaba and Ant Financial have joined our community and committed to patent non-aggression in the core."
"We are excited to join OIN," added Ant Financial's Benjamin Bai, vice president and chief IP counsel in a statement. "OIN has been at the forefront of helping companies reduce patent infringement risks relating to Linux. It does so by creating a voluntary system of patent cross-licenses between member companies covering Linux System technologies. We look forward to working with OIN and its members to protect the Linux ecosystem and also encourage innovation in the open source software community."
OIN's promotes patent non-aggression by cross-licensing Linux System patents to all OIN members on a royalty-free basis. Companies can join the OIN and receive its protections even if they have no patents of their own. OIN patents are also licensed royalty-free to any organization that agrees not to assert its patents against Linux and its related IP protected software.
While the US-China trade war shows no real sign of cooling down, it's nice to see two major Chinese companies offering an IP peace offering by joining the OIN.