“At the heart of the Open In­ven­tion Net­work is its pow­er­ful cross-li­cence”

The Open In­ven­tion Net­work was set up in 2005 by IBM, Novell, Philips, Red Hat and Sony. As open source soft­ware be­came the driv­ing force for free and col­lab­o­ra­tive in­no­va­tion over the past decades, Linux and as­so­ci­ated open source ap­pli­ca­tions faced incr

OpenSource For You - - Contents -

QWhat does the Open In­ven­tion Net­work have for the open source com­mu­nity? The Open In­ven­tion Net­work (OIN) is a col­lab­o­ra­tive en­ter­prise that en­ables in­no­va­tion in Linux and other open source projects by lever­ag­ing a port­fo­lio of more than 1,200 strate­gic, world­wide patents and ap­pli­ca­tions. That is paired with our unique, roy­alty-free li­cence agree­ment.

While our patent port­fo­lio is worth a great deal - in the or­der of hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars - any per­son or com­pany can gain ac­cess to OIN’s patents for free, as long as they agree not to sue any­one in the col­lec­tion of soft­ware pack­ages that we call the ‘Linux Sys­tem’. A new li­censee also re­ceives roy­alty-free ac­cess to the Linux Sys­tem patents of the 2,200 other li­censees. In essence, a li­censee is agree­ing to

sup­port patent non-ag­gres­sion in Linux. Even if an or­gan­i­sa­tion has no patents, by tak­ing an OIN li­cense, it gains ac­cess to the OIN patent port­fo­lio and an un­re­stricted field of use.

QHow has OIN grown since its in­cep­tion in Novem­ber 2005? Since the launch of OIN, Linux and open source have be­come more widely used and are in­cred­i­bly preva­lent. The av­er­age per­son to­day has an al­most count­less num­ber of touch points with Linux and open source soft­ware on a daily ba­sis. Search en­gines, smart­phones, cloud com­put­ing, fi­nan­cial and bank­ing net­works, mo­bile net­works and au­to­mo­biles, among many other in­dus­tries, are all lever­ag­ing Linux and open source.

As Linux de­vel­op­ment, dis­tri­bu­tion and us­age have grown -- so too has the de­sire of lead­ing busi­nesses and or­gan­i­sa­tions to join OIN. In ad­di­tion to the ben­e­fit of gain­ing ac­cess to patents worth hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars, be­com­ing an OIN com­mu­nity mem­ber pub­licly demon­strates an or­gan­i­sa­tion’s com­mit­ment to Linux and open source. These fac­tors have led OIN to grow at a very sig­nif­i­cant pace over the last five years.

We are now see­ing new com­mu­nity mem­bers from across all ge­o­graphic re­gions as well as new in­dus­tries and plat­forms that in­clude ve­hi­cles, NFV (net­work func­tion vir­tu­al­i­sa­tion) telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions ser­vices, In­ter­net of Things, blockchain dig­i­tal ledgers and em­bed­ded parts.

QHow did you man­age to build a patent ‘no-fly’ zone around Linux? At the heart of OIN is its pow­er­ful crossli­cence. Any or­gan­i­sa­tion, business or in­di­vid­ual can join OIN and get ac­cess to its patents with­out pay­ing a roy­alty even if the or­gan­i­sa­tion has no patents. The key stip­u­la­tion in join­ing is that com­mu­nity mem­bers agree not to sue any­one based on a cat­a­logue of soft­ware li­braries we call the Linux Sys­tem.

QWhat were the ma­jor chal­lenges you faced in build­ing OIN up as the largest patent non-ag­gres­sion com­mu­nity? There is no anal­ogy in the his­tory of the tech­nol­ogy in­dus­try for OIN. Where peo­ple re­ally strug­gled was in un­der­stand­ing our business model. Be­cause we do not charge a fee to join or ac­cess our patents, it was chal­leng­ing for ex­ec­u­tives to grasp the fact that OIN was cre­ated to help all com­pa­nies ded­i­cated to Linux. For the first few years of our ex­is­tence, this as­pect cre­ated un­cer­tainty as it is not com­mon for lead­ers like IBM, Red Hat, SUSE, Google and Toy­ota to come to­gether to con­trib­ute cap­i­tal to sup­port a com­mon good with no fi­nan­cial re­turn. But in­stead of seek­ing a fi­nan­cial re­turn, these com­pa­nies have had the fore­sight to un­der­stand that the modal­i­ties of col­lab­o­ra­tive in­ven­tion will ben­e­fit all those who cur­rently rely on, as well as those who will come to rely on, open source soft­ware. In this trans­for­ma­tion arise mar­ket op­por­tu­ni­ties and a new way of cre­at­ing value in the new econ­omy which is open to all who have com­ple­men­tary tech­nol­ogy, tal­ent and com­pelling business mod­els.

QWhat prac­tices does OIN en­cour­age to elim­i­nate lowqual­ity patents for open source so­lu­tions? Low-qual­ity patents are the food­stuff of NPEs (non-prac­tis­ing en­ti­ties) and or­gan­i­sa­tions look­ing to hin­der their com­peti­tors, be­cause their prod­ucts are not com­pet­i­tive in the mar­ket­place. OIN has taken a multi-pronged ap­proach to­wards elim­i­nat­ing low-qual­ity patents. We have coun­selled and ap­plaud the ef­forts of the USPTO (United States Patent and Trade­mark Of­fice), other in­ter­na­tional patent as­sign­ing en­ti­ties and var­i­ous gov­ern­ment agencies in the EU and Asia that are work­ing to cre­ate a higher bar for grant­ing a patent. Ad­di­tion­ally, in the US, Asia and the EU, there are pre-patent peer re­view or­gan­i­sa­tions that are work­ing to en­sure that prior art is well cat­a­logued and avail­able for patent ex­am­in­ers. These ini­tia­tives are in­creas­ingly ef­fec­tive.

QWhat are the key steps an or­gan­i­sa­tion should take to pro­tect it­self from a patent in­fringe­ment claim re­lated to an open source de­ploy­ment? A good first step is to join the Open In­ven­tion Net­work. This gives Linux and open source de­vel­op­ers, dis­trib­u­tors and users ac­cess to very strate­gic patents owned di­rectly by OIN, and cross-li­censed with thou­sands of other OIN com­mu­nity mem­bers. An­other sig­nif­i­cant step is to un­der­stand the var­i­ous li­cences used by the open source com­mu­nity. These can be found at the Open Source Ini­tia­tive.

QHow do re­sources like Linux De­fend­ers help or­gan­i­sa­tions to over­come patent is­sues? We en­cour­age the open source com­mu­nity to con­trib­ute to de­fen­sive pub­li­ca­tions, as that will help to im­prove patent ex­am­i­na­tion and there­fore will limit the fu­ture li­cens­ing of other patents. Linux De­fend­ers aims to sub­mit prior art on cer­tain patents while they are at the ap­pli­ca­tion stage to pre­vent or re­strict the is­suance of these patents. Fi­nally, we ed­u­cate the open source com­mu­nity on other de­fen­sive in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty strate­gies that can be em­ployed to com­ple­ment their mem­ber­ship in OIN.

QUn­like the pro­pri­etary world, aware­ness re­gard­ing the im­por­tance of patents and li­cens­ing struc­tures is quite low in the open source space. How does OIN help to en­hance such knowl­edge? We con­duct a fairly ex­ten­sive ed­u­ca­tional pro­gramme in ad­di­tion to spread­ing the word through in­ter­views and me­dia cov­er­age. We have speak­ers that par­tic­i­pate at nu­mer­ous open source events around the globe. Also, we help to ed­u­cate in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty pro­fes­sion­als through our sup­port of the Euro­pean

Le­gal Net­work and the cre­ation of the Asian Le­gal Net­work, in­clud­ing reg­u­lar Asian Le­gal Net­work meet­ings in In­dia.

QIn what way does OIN help de­vel­op­ers opt­ing to use open source tech­nolo­gies?

We be­lieve that all prod­ucts and ser­vices, and in par­tic­u­lar those based on open source tech­nolo­gies, should be able to com­pete on a level play­ing field. We help en­sure this by sig­nif­i­cantly re­duc­ing the risk of patent lit­i­ga­tion from com­pa­nies that want to hin­der new open source-based en­trants. We also pro­vide de­vel­op­ers, dis­trib­u­tors and users of Linux and other open source tech­nolo­gies that join OIN with ac­cess to valu­able patents owned by us di­rectly, and cross-li­censed by our com­mu­nity mem­bers.

QAs over 2,200 par­tic­i­pants have al­ready joined in with the found­ing mem­bers, have patent threats to Linux re­duced now? There will al­ways be the threat of patent lit­i­ga­tion by bad ac­tors. OIN was cre­ated to neu­tralise patent law­suit threats against Linux – pri­mar­ily through patent non-ag­gres­sion com­mu­nity build­ing and the threat of mu­tu­ally as­sured de­struc­tion in patent lit­i­ga­tion.

As the Open In­ven­tion Net­work com­mu­nity con­tin­ues to grow, the amount of in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty that is avail­able for cross-li­cens­ing will con­tinue to grow. This will en­sure that in­no­va­tion in the core will con­tinue, al­low­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions to fo­cus their en­er­gies and re­sources higher in the tech­nol­ogy stack, where they can sig­nif­i­cantly dif­fer­en­ti­ate their prod­ucts and ser­vices.

QWhere do you see ma­jor patent threats com­ing from — are they from the cloud world, mo­bil­ity or the emerg­ing sec­tors like In­ter­net of Things and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence?

Linux and open source tech­nol­ogy adop­tion will in­crease as more gen­eral com­put­ing tech­nolo­gies be­come the key build­ing blocks in ar­eas like the au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try. Many of the com­put­ing ven­dors that have been ag­gres­sive or liti­gious his­tor­i­cally may try to use a sim­i­lar strat­egy to ex­tract li­cens­ing fees re­lated to Linux.

This is one of the rea­sons that com­pa­nies like Toy­ota, Daim­ler-Benz, Ford, Gen­eral Mo­tors, Subaru and Hyundai-Kia, among many oth­ers, have ei­ther joined OIN or are very close to sign­ing on. In fact, Toy­ota made a sig­nif­i­cant fi­nan­cial con­tri­bu­tion to OIN and is our lat­est board mem­ber.

QDon’t you think that ul­ti­mately, this is a war with just Mi­crosoft? In the last few years, Mi­crosoft has taken some pos­i­tive steps to­wards be­com­ing a good open source cit­i­zen. We have and will con­tinue to en­cour­age it to join OIN and very pub­licly demon­strate its com­mit­ment to shared in­no­va­tion and patent non-ag­gres­sion in Linux and open source.

QHow do you view the in­te­gra­tion of open source into ma­jor Mi­crosoft of­fer­ings? We see all this as recog­ni­tion by

Mi­crosoft that its suc­cess does not have to come solely from pro­pri­etary soft­ware and stan­dards. If it be­comes a good open source cit­i­zen, it can also reap the ben­e­fits of in­no­va­tion and cost ef­fi­cien­cies de­rived through the de­vel­op­ment, dis­tri­bu­tion and use of Linux. We have and will con­tinue to cheer Mi­crosoft to be­come an OIN li­censee. This would pub­licly and tan­gi­bly demon­strate its sup­port and com­mit­ment to patent non-ag­gres­sion in Linux and open source.

QIn ad­di­tion to your present role at OIN, you have suc­cess­fully man­aged IP strate­gies at var­i­ous tech com­pa­nies. What is unique about de­vel­op­ing an IP strat­egy for an open source com­pany?

Over the last few years, as mar­ket forces have shifted, new leg­is­la­tion has been passed, and ju­di­cial prece­dents have been set – all tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies have had to re­view their IP strate­gies. With the rapid adop­tion of open source by most tech­nol­ogy ven­dors, it is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly chal­leng­ing to bi­fur­cate or­gan­i­sa­tions as open source vs non-open source.

We be­lieve that to­day and in the fu­ture, suc­cess­ful com­pa­nies — whether they are hy­brid or pure-play open source com­pa­nies — will take ad­van­tage of the ben­e­fits of shared core tech­nol­ogy in­no­va­tion. They will look to in­vest the ma­jor­ity of their re­sources higher in the tech­nol­ogy stack. This move will help en­sure the con­tin­ued sales of their higher-value prod­ucts through an IP strat­egy em­ploy­ing patents, de­fen­sive pub­li­ca­tions, or both—and by par­tic­i­pat­ing in an or­gan­i­sa­tion like OIN.

QLastly, could it be an en­tirely patent-free fu­ture for open source in the com­ing years? While soft­ware patents are not part of the land­scape in In­dia, they are part of the land­scape else­where in the world. We don’t fore­see this chang­ing any­time soon.

Keith Bergelt, CEO of Open In­ven­tion Net­work

Keith Bergelt, CEO of Open In­ven­tion Net­work

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