Open Invention Network
||This article reads like an editorial or opinion piece. (July 2010)|
|Type||Limited liability company|
|Founded||November 10, 2005|
|Headquarters||Durham, NC, United States|
|Key people||Keith Bergelt|
The Open Invention Network (OIN) is a company that acquires patents and licenses them royalty free to entities which, in turn, agree not to assert their own patents against Linux and Linux-related systems and applications.
Based in Durham, NC, the company was founded on November 10, 2005 by IBM, Novell, Philips, Red Hat, and Sony. NEC subsequently became a member. Canonical and Google are Associate Members. Keith Bergelt is the chief executive of the company. Bergelt had previously served as President and CEO of Paradox Capital, LLC 
Open Invention Network has more than 600 U.S. and international patents and patent applications. It holds the Commerce One Web services patents (previously acquired by Novell for $15.5 million), which cover several fundamentals of current business-to-business e-commerce practice. OIN's founders intend for these patents to encourage others to join, and to discourage legal threats against Linux and Linux-related applications. As of October 2013, OIN had more than 600 licensees.
The list of key applications considered by OIN, according to Red Hat's Mark Webbink, includes Apache, Eclipse, Evolution, Fedora Directory Server, Firefox, GIMP, GNOME, KDE, Mono, Mozilla, MySQL, Nautilus, OpenLDAP, OpenOffice.org, Open-Xchange, Perl, PostgreSQL, Python, Samba, SELinux, Sendmail, and Thunderbird.
On March 26, 2007, Oracle licensed OIN's portfolio, thus agreeing not to assert patents against the GNU/Linux-based environment, including competitors MySQL and PostgreSQL when used as part of a GNU/Linux system. On August 7, 2007, Google also joined OIN as a licensee. On October 2, 2007, Barracuda Networks joined OIN as a licensee. On March 23, 2009 TomTom joined OIN as a licensee. In May 2011, the European Open Source software manufacturer Univention joined OIN as a licensee.
Countering Microsoft strategy for feeding patent trolls
In early September 2009, Open Invention Network acquired 30 patents, from Allied Security Trust, another defensive patent management organization, that had been acquired from Microsoft through a private auction. Microsoft's sale appeared dubious because the patents were marketed as relating to Linux. If the patents had been acquired by patent trolls, they might have caused financial obstacles to Linux developers, distributors and users. OIN was able to avert this issue with the patent acquisition.
Ways to participate with Open Invention Network
Open Invention Network has three levels of participation, each of which helps to promote open source as a modality for invention and ensure ongoing freedom of action for GNU/Linux community members:
- Founding Members — Open Invention Network comprises six forward-looking organizations that originally created OIN with a mission of enabling and protecting Linux-based systems as it relates to IP rights. OIN's Founding Members include IBM, NEC, Novell, Philips, Red Hat and Sony.
- Associate Members — Associate Members are recruited from Linux-related companies, including those that are leaders in advancing Linux-based migration into emerging growth markets. Associate Members make a commitment to the Linux Community by virtue of their commitments to and membership in OIN and help to ensure that patent issues do not impair growth of Linux-based systems.
- Licensees — Any company or organization that agrees to refrain from using its patent portfolio against the Linux System may become an OIN licensee. Licensees benefit from royalty-free access to a valuable and growing portfolio of strategic patents, as well as from ongoing communication with OIN concerning Linux-related patent issues. In so doing, licensees facilitate their access to OIN resources such as Linux Defenders, which is designed to address patent issues with the potential to impact Linux. OIN licensees, be they founding members, associate members or licensees, contribute to an ever expanding community of companies that share a common goal of ensuring freedom of action in and across the GNU/Linux ecosystem. Through their unified commitment to Linux, they limit the negative effect of patent-based challenges mounted by companies antagonistic to Linux and open source innovation.
On June 22, 2010, OIN announced a new Associate Member program and the recruitment of Canonical (previously an OIN licensee) as its first associate member. The announcement drew criticism from anti-software-patent activist and a European lobbyist Florian Müller, who had previously criticized the OIN for a lack of transparency and for defining arbitrarily the scope of the patent protection it offers. Florian Mueller's credibility in attacking OIN has been called into question due to his paid relationship with Microsoft.
In addition to its Linux protection activities through intellectual property acquisition and royalty-free licensing, OIN offers and sponsors free services that eliminate low-quality patents—the food stuffs of aggressive strategics and patent trolls. Designed to eliminate poor quality patents and ensure that only high-quality patents issue, the Linux Defenders program enables individuals and organizations to efficiently contribute to:
- “Defensive Publications” that codify ‘known’ inventions that have not previously been patented so that they can be brought to the attention of the patent office to ensure that later developed patent applications claiming such inventions do not issue. In general, defensive publications are a vehicle which allows the Linux and broader open source community to create valuable prior art that enables Linux and freedom of action/freedom to operate for those active in utilizing Linux to drive innovation in products, services, and applications.
- “Peer to Patent” which solicits prior art contributions from the Linux and broader open source community to ensure patent examiners are aware of prior art relevant to published applications that are currently under review. In this way, the patent office is alerted to relevant prior art and only the most innovative and novel ideas are actually patented.
- “Post-Issue Peer to Patent” which solicits prior art contribution from Linux and the broader open source community to permit the invalidation of previously issued patents that were issued in error because of the patent office’s lack of awareness of relevant prior art.
Use of Linux Defenders is free of charge to contributors and the hosting of Defensive Publications on databases accessible by patent and trademark office examiners around the world is borne by the program’s sponsors.
- Patent Commons Project
- Patent pool
- Software patent
- Software patent debate
- Software patents and free software
- Open-source software
- Free software
- Allied Security Trust
- RPX Corporation
- Cover Pages web site, Open Invention Network Collects Patents to Promote Royalty-Free Linux, November 11, 2005.
- Open Invention Network web site, Management Team. Consulted on June 26, 2008.
- Mark Webbink in Linux Magazine, The Open Invention Network, April 27th 2006.
- Stephen Shankland (2007-03-26). "Oracle bands with open-source patent group". News.com. Retrieved 2007-03-27.
- InformationWeek, Google To Join Group To Protect Linux From Possible Patent Challenge, August 7, 2007
- Matt Asay, Barracuda Networks: An unsung hero of open source and a new member of Open Invention Network, barracudanetworks.com, In the News, October 2, 2007.
- PRWEB, Open Invention Network Extends The Linux Ecosystem As TomTom Becomes Licensee.
- "Univention joins the OIN patent pool". http://h-online.com. Heise Media UK Ltd. 2011-05-03. Retrieved 2012-05-30.
- OIN, Open Invention Network Announces Associate Member Program and Recruits Canonical As Its First Associate Member.
- TheRegister, Ubuntu daddy in patent class of its own
- Daniweb, Canonical Assimilated by the OIN Borg
- ZDNet, Mueller calls OIN a scam
-  "Study on the worldwide use of FRAND-committed patents"
- Open Invention Network
- Gartner Research, OIN Will Promote Linux Innovation, but Raises Issues, November 16, 2005
- Webbink, Mark H. The Open Innovation Network. Linux Magazine, April 2006, page 18. Quoted in Open Invention Network (OIN), software patents, and FLOSS