When it comes to defending the intellectual property (IP) rights of Linux and open-source software, global leading banks aren't the first businesses to come to mind. Things have changed. Barclays, the London-based global corporate and investment bank, and the TD Bank Group, with its 26-million global customers, have joined the leading open-source IP defense group, the Open Invention Network (OIN)
For years, the OIN, the largest patent non-aggression consortium, has protected Linux from patent attacks and patent trolls. Recently, it expanded its scope from core Linux programs and adjacent open-source code by expanding its Linux System Definition. In particular, that means patents relating to the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) 10 and the Extended File Allocation Table exFAT file system are now protected.
As important as this is, why would banks, no matter how big, care? It's because even banks care about opposing the abuse of IP rights by patent assertion entities (PAE), better known to most of us as "patent trolls." Even banks are subject to patent troll attacks these days.
The sheer number of patent infringement suits filed by patent trolls has continued to grow over the past several years. Changes in legal precedent and the economic effects of the global pandemic appear to have further fanned the flames of the patent troll threat. Left unaddressed, the practice of asserting questionable patents diverts companies' resources away from Innovation to costly defenses again trolls.
Besides joining the OIN, Barclay is also joining the LOT Network. This is another fast-growing nonprofit group of companies that aims to stop patent trolls in their tracks. It has more than 1,100 member companies and covers over 2 million patent assets.
Lee Braine, Barclays's managing director and CTO, said in a statement: "By fostering a culture of innovation across the financial services ecosystem, we can help protect our future and better serve our clients. Spurious claims from PAEs to divert resources and investment away from true innovation and collaboration. We also recognize that a modern approach to technology development and innovation requires a level playing field around the use of open-source software. With membership of LOT and OIN, we are pleased to contribute to and extend the growing global community working together to prevent the PAE threat and remove barriers to use of open-source technologies."
TD, the first major North American bank to join the OIN, also gets it. TD is focused on constantly improving its operating platforms, which means using open-source software. By joining OIN, TD is demonstrating its commitment to patent non-aggression in OSS.
Josh Death, IP and Patentable Innovations Lead at TD, added: "PAE activity continues to trend upward in the banking industry. PAEs have become a tax on business and we're willing to explore any reasonable means to address such risks. We fully support efforts to limit the very means by which PAEs fuel their claims and extract a tax from operating companies. OIN has done an amazing job of creating an effective PAE freedom to operate zone around the Linux environment. We're delighted to support OIN and its initiative."
The simple truth is that all businesses now depend on Linux and open-source software. Anything that attacks them is bad for everyone's business. As OIN's CEO Keith Bergelt said about banking in particular, "The financial services and fintech industries are increasingly relying on open source technologies for building and integrating feature-rich platforms."