OIN, IBM, Microsoft And The Linux Foundation Team To Combat Patent Troll Attacks On OSS

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Below is our recent interview with Keith Bergelt, CEO of Open Invention Network:

Q: Hi Keith, its great to speak with you again. What is the makeup and mission of the Open Invention Network?

A: It’s great to speak with you as well. Open Invention Network (OIN) continues to be the largest patent non-aggression community in history. Our community has surpassed 3,100 corporate participants. The community comprises organizations from startups to many of the largest organizations in the world who are coming to increasing rely on open source software to support innovation and growth. Many of OIN’s licensees are among the leaders in their sector and often have patent holdings that number in the tens of thousands. In total, OIN licensees own over 3 million patents.

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-related patents of the 3,000 other licensees, which in aggregate own over two million worldwide patents, via the cross-license.

Additionally, OIN provides its licensees royalty free use of its owned patent portfolio of more than 1,200 strategic global patents and applications. OIN has purchased its patent portfolio at a cost of in excess of $100 Million to serve as a defensive deterrent to patent aggression in core open source technologies.

OIN’s licensees thereby get a royalty free license to Linux System-related patents held by all other licensees by virtue of the cross-license AND a royalty free license to OIN’s owned portfolio of more than 1,200 plus strategic patents. In return, the OIN license obligates its licensees to contribute all Linux System-related patents into the cross-license and forebear litigation on Linux system grounds.

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Q: What are you announcing today?

A: We are very pleased to share this news. In addition to our ongoing activities, we are looking to address patent troll activities as they relate to Linux and open source.

We are partnering with IBM, the Linux Foundation and Microsoft to further protect open source software from Patent Assertion Entities (PAEs) – also known as patent trolls – looking to leverage low-quality patents. Collectively, OIN, Microsoft, IBM and the Linux Foundation are each contributing to support the launch of the Unified Patent Open Source Software Zone. This expands OIN’s and its partners’ patent non-aggression activities by deterring PAEs from targeting Linux and adjacent OSS technologies relied on by developers, distributors and users.

Q: What specific activities will this entail?

A: The capital from the four entities is provided to Unified to support the launch of its new OSS Zone. Unified’s deterrence strategy for the OSS Zone includes challenging patents through Inter partes reviews (IPR), Unified’s Patroll crowd-sourced prior art, its NPE tracking and data, its online litigation and PTAB databases, its patent landscaping and market transactional data, among many others.

Q: What level of funding are OIN, the Linux Foundation, Microsoft and IBM providing?

A: IBM, OIN, Microsoft and the Linux Foundation are all making independent funding contributions to the initiative and are all supporting the launch of the Unified Open Source Software Zone. The aggregate funding commitment from the parties is millions-of-dollars over several years.

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Q: What do you expect to achieve by supporting the OSS Zone?

A: The goal is to combat the aggressive use of poor-quality patents that are claimed to read on core Linux and/or associated OSS technology. The target of this OSS threat neutralization activity will be patent assertion entities holding such patents that have a history/intent of serial litigation. While we have seen patent troll activities, most recently evidenced by the Rothschild lawsuit against GNOME, we expect to reduce the patent litigation risk that patent assertion entities represent to the OSS community through this initiative with Unified Patents. This activity represents a pivot for OIN from focusing the majority of our attention on operating company risk to now placing greater attention on patent risk mitigation activities related non-practicing entities.