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OIN expands Linux patent protection yet again (but not to AI)

The largest patent non-aggression community, Open Invention Network broadens its Linux System definition to cover additional open-source and cloud-networking programs.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor
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While Linux and open-source software (OSS) are no longer constantly under intellectual property (IP) attacks, the Open Invention Network (OIN) patent consortium still stands guard over its patents. Now, OIN, the largest patent non-aggression community, has expanded its protection once again by updating its Linux System definition.

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Covering more than just Linux, the Linux System definition also protects adjacent open-source technologies. In the past, protection was expanded to Android, Kubernetes, and OpenStack. The OIN accomplishes this by providing a shared defensive patent pool of over 3 million patents from over 3,900 community members. OIN members include Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and essentially all Linux-based companies. 

This latest update extends OIN's existing patent risk mitigation efforts to cloud-native computing and enterprise software. In the cloud computing realm, OIN has added patent coverage for projects such as Istio, Falco, Argo, Grafana, and Spire. For enterprise computing, packages such as Apache Atlas and Apache Solr -- used for data management and search at scale, respectively -- are now protected.

The update also enhances patent protection for the Internet of Things (IoT), networking, and automotive technologies. OpenThread and packages such as agl-compositor and kukusa.val have been added to the Linux System definition.

In the embedded systems space, OIN has supplemented its coverage of technologies like OpenEmbedded by adding the OpenAMP and Matter, the home IoT standard. OIN has included open hardware development tools such as Edalize, cocotb, Amaranth, and Migen, building upon its existing coverage of hardware design tools like Verilator and FuseSoc.

Keith Bergelt, OIN's CEO, emphasized the importance of this update, stating, "Linux and other open-source software projects continue to accelerate the pace of innovation across a growing number of industries. By design, periodic expansion of OIN's Linux System definition enables OIN to keep pace with OSS's growth."

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Bergelt explained that this update reflects OIN's well-established process of carefully maintaining a balance between stability and incorporating innovative core open-source technologies into the Linux System definition. The latest additions result from OIN's consensus-driven update process.

"OIN is also trying to make patent protection more accessible," he added. "We're trying to make it easier for people to understand what's in there and why it's in there, what it relates to, what projects it relates to, and what it means to developers and laymen as well as lawyers."

Looking ahead, Bergelt said, "We made this conscious decision not to include AI. It's so dynamic. We wait until we see what AI programs  have significant usage and adoption levels." This is how the OIN has always worked. The consortium takes its time to ensure it extends its protection to projects that will be around for the long haul.

The OIN practices patent non-aggression in core Linux and adjacent open-source technologies by cross-licensing their Linux System patents to one another on a royalty-free basis. When OIN signees are attacked because of their patents, the OIN can spring into action.

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For example, the OIN came to the GNOME Foundation's defense when the latter was attacked by patent troll Rothschild Patent Imaging (RPI). With OIN's help, the GNOME Foundation not only won, but RPI's patents can now be used freely by any open-source company.

Does that sound like something you'd like to be a part of? You can join the OIN community by completing the membership form and signing the OIN license agreement online.

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