Below is our recent interview with Keith Bergelt, CEO at Open Invention Network:
Q: Keith, thank you for speaking with us today. Can you give us a brief background about Open Invention Network?
A: Nearly 15 years ago, recognizing the potential of open source, a group of truly forward-thinking organizations led by IBM, NEC, Red Hat, Philips, Sony and SUSE formed OIN. Subsequently, Toyota and Google have joined as Board Members and financial supporters. At that time, open source software was used primarily by computer companies making servers. Since that time, open source has become ubiquitous. It powers everything from smartphones and toys to search engines and banking networks – as well as almost everything in between. Today, there are many industries that are investing heavily in open source software because of the benefits of shared technological innovation, which has been a key driver of open source’s growth.
Because these companies want to feel safe in their open source investments, they look to join patent non-aggression organizations like OIN. Ours is the largest patent non-aggression community in history, because companies large and small see the value provided by shared innovation and they wish to standardize on core open source functionality without fear of patent litigation.
OIN’s value is derived from its royalty-free cross license that enables patent peace in core technologies and supports innovation in Linux and other particularly important open source projects. Every community member receives royalty-free access to the Linux System patents of the 3,200 other licensees, which in aggregate own over 2.5 million worldwide patents, via the OIN cross-license.
Q: What are you announcing with regard to Huawei?
A: With continuous innovations being implemented, the ICT industry is undergoing an unprecedented transformation. Linux-based platforms, including Linux Foundation Networking projects such as OPNFV and ONAP, are enabling service providers and enterprises to provision new levels of functionality across cloud and software defined networks at a rapid pace. As a global leader in ICT infrastructure, and a company with a significant intellectual property portfolio, we appreciate Huawei joining OIN and supporting patent non-aggression in the core of Linux and adjacent OSS.
Huawei is a top-20 contributor to the Linux kernel and other open source products. In 2019, Huawei was granted the most patents in the E.U. and was a top-10 recipient in the United States. We are very pleased that Huawei, with its strong contributions to the open source software community and its substantial patent portfolio, is joining our community.
Q: Given some of the issues surrounding Huawei, how do they benefit by joining OIN?
A: Like the open source community that it supports, Open Invention Network is global. It is important to note that open source software cuts across geopolitical boundaries. While Open Invention Network is headquartered in the United States, 43% of our funding members are based in Asia, and 28% are based in Europe. Only 21% of OIN’s community members come from the United States. In other words, 79% of OIN’s community hails from Asia & Pacific, Europe, South & Central America, the Middle East and Africa.
Chinese companies are involved in an ever-increasing number of open source projects and have migrated from simply adopting open source code to actually contributing code back to the Linux Kernel and various projects in which they participate. As I said earlier, Huawei is a top-20 contributor to the Linux kernel, an important accomplishment that evidences how deeply committed China is to open source software and the notion of collaborative development as an adjunct to internal technical development. In the area of networking, Chinese companies such as China Mobile, China Telecom, Huawei, and ZTE are important contributors to LF Networking, which contains key open source projects such as OPNFV, ONAP, and Open Daylight. We also see great interest from Chinese enterprises in blockchain technology and open source software solutions such as those being offered by Hyperledger.
Chinese companies have come to see inherent value in open source and shared collaboration, and how it can benefit the entire technology ecosystem providing a win-win situation for software vendors and users. In other words, they see value in collaborating in the core technologies while competing in other areas. By joining OIN, The Linux Foundation, and other open source organizations, Huawei is publicly demonstrating its commitment to software development and collaboration in core Linux and adjacent technologies. Huawei believes that participating in these communities will ensure that open source, and its ability to drive new innovation, is available to all open source community participants – enabling them to focus their monetary and technical investments in the most strategic places in their technology stacks.
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Q: We covered the story of Alibaba and Ant Financial joining OIN. And, Huawei is a global leader in the technology industry. What other China-based companies are part of the OIN community?
A: Globally, our community has surpassed 3,200 corporate participants. The community comprises organizations from startups to many of the largest organizations in the world, that increasingly rely on open source software to support innovation and growth. One quarter of the OIN community is from Asia Pacific countries. Of those, nearly 200 are Chinese companies. Some of the China-based enterprises include China UnionPay, Tencent, JD.com, Tinno, Dahua, Meituan, DiDi, Geely, SAIC Motors, Guangzhou Automobile Group, Hikvision, Uniview, Haier, Mindray, and many others. In fact, over the last three years, the growth of OIN licensing in China has far outpaced all other regions of the world. We expect to see this rate of licensing in China to continue, if not grow.