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Today, we speak with Mr. Keith Bergelt, CEO of Open Invention Network and Mr. Roger Shang, Senior Legal Director at the Alibaba Group:
Q: Can you give our readers a quick review of Open Invention Network and what it does?
A: Open Invention Network is the largest patent non-aggression community in history. It supports freedom of action in Linux and adjacent open source software (OSS), ensuring that patent aggressors do not hinder the continued growth and adoption of open source technologies.
Understanding the potential of open source, a group of forward thinking organizations led by IBM, NEC, Philips, Red Hat, Sony, and SUSE (later joined by Google and Toyota) formed OIN, and in so doing elected to abandon the notion of control in core technologies in favor of a desire to broaden the level of participation in open source projects. By explicitly embracing the notion that where we collaborate and create core functionality we should not sue each other and shifting invention-based differentiation to the application layer, these companies entreated others to join in and reap the benefits of collective innovation in core technologies.
Q: Why is OIN so important to open source?
A: The formation and growth of the OIN community has ushered in a complete shift in market dynamics. By increasing the size of the community and making the patents that relate to this core technology free to others via cross licensees, the opportunity for network effects to accrue is enormous. Our whole goal has been to rapidly grow our community of like-minded companies and developers to ensure companies antagonistic to Linux had limited, or no effect, in leveraging their intellectual property to hinder the growth of open source development, distribution and adoption. As more businesses and organizations have seen the value of community inherent in the OIN licensing model, they have sought to join us.
Q: How big is the OIN Community?
A: We have seen the OIN community grow from less than 50 community licensees in early 2008 to more than 2,800 today. We have seen the make-up of our community adapt as we have grown – from being mostly technology vendors in North America and Europe – to become a very diverse group of companies, representing a spectrum of industries, hailing from all parts of the globe.
Q: What are you announcing with Alibaba?
A: We are very pleased to announce that Alibaba and Ant Financial Services Group (“Ant Financial”) have joined our community. As a global leader in e-commerce and cloud computing, and a global leader in financial technology (FinTech), respectively, Alibaba and Ant Financial are demonstrating their commitment to open source software as an enabler of their platforms and systems.
Q: Why did Alibaba choose to join the Open Invention Network?
A: Alibaba is involved in over a hundred open source projects, including contribution to Linux kernel. Alibaba and its cloud computing company, Alibaba Cloud, have joined open source organizations including the Linux Foundation, CNCF, Free Software Foundation, and Apache Software Foundation. Open source software can benefit the entire ecosystem and provide win-win situation for software vendors, developers and users. As a related company to Alibaba, Ant Financial shares the same views on open source and the need to ensure its continued development.
The Open Invention Network is the largest patent non-aggression community in history. By joining it Alibaba and Ant Financial are publicly demonstrating their commitment to software development collaboration and innovation in core Linux and adjacent technologies. Alibaba and Ant Financial believe that participating in this community will ensure that open source, and its ability to drive new innovation, is available to all members without patent holdup concerns.
Q: Alibaba has a history of participating in open source, what will IP will it contribute to OIN?
A: Alibaba has been focusing on research and development in cloud computing, operating systems, data processing and other areas for many years. Likewise, Ant Financial has been pioneering the use of technologies, such as blockchain and AI, to accelerate financial inclusion. Many of our innovations have materialized and will continue to materialize in the form of patents. Just like the other participating members of the OIN Community, we have signed the cross license that ensures any patents that are addressed by OIN’s Linux System definition will be available royalty-free to other community members.
Q: How does joining a non-aggression entity like the Open Invention Network promote innovation?
A: OIN actively promotes the idea of innovation collaboration at the operating system level – while encouraging product or service differentiation at the middleware and application technology layers. Fostering collaboration drives innovation farther and faster.
Q: How can Chinese companies benefit from joining the Open Invention Network? What advice would you give to interested parties?
A: Innovation collaboration on a global scale is good for all citizens of the world. It enables new technologies while doing so more efficiently and less expensively. At Alibaba and Ant Financial, we are very proud of working with engineers, researchers, developers, small businesses and customers around the world.
Many Chinese companies are embracing and contributing to open source software. Joining OIN will enhance their freedom to collaborate and innovate.