Open Invention Network
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|Limited liability company|
|Founded||November 10, 2005|
Open Invention Network (OIN) is a patent non-aggression community that supports freedom of action in Linux as a key element of open source software. OIN acquires patents and licenses them royalty-free to its community members who, 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, SUSE, Philips, Red Hat, and Sony. NEC subsequently became a Member. In December 2013, Google became a Member. In July 2016, it was announced that Toyota became a Member. On October 10, 2018, Erich Andersen announced that Microsoft joined as a licensee. Canonical and TomTom are Associate Members. Keith Bergelt is the chief executive of the company. Bergelt had previously served as President and CEO of Paradox Capital, LLC As of October 10 2018 membership in the OIN stood at around 2,400 companies.
Open Invention Network has more than 1,300 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 2018, OIN had more than 2,650 community members (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. Oracle exercised a Limitation Election on March 29, 2012. 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.
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. 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:
- Members — Open Invention Network receives significant financial backing from large companies. OIN's Members include Google, Microsoft, IBM, NEC, Philips, Red Hat, Sony, SUSE and Toyota.
- Associate Members — Associate Members are recruited from Linux-related companies. 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 corporate sponsors.
OIN encourages practices that eliminate low-quality patents—the foodstuff of aggressive strategics and patent trolls. Specifically, OIN encourages the Linux and open source communities to become active in:
- "Inter Partes Review", also known as “IPRs”, is a procedure for challenging the validity of an issued patent owned by a third party. By challenging patents with IPRs, the Linux and broader open source community can help to eliminate them. Unified Patents has successfully invalidated a number of patents using Inter Partes Review.
- "Third-Party Preissuance Submissions" provide for challenging the validity of a patent application. They provide a mechanism for third parties to submit prior art of potential relevance to the United States Patent and Trademark Office during the examination of another party’s patent application. In this way, the Linux and broader open source community can help to eliminate patents, and particularly help to mitigate the issuance of new low-quality patents. A patent application challenger may remain unnamed or anonymous by asking a firm to complete the Third-Party Preissuance Submission on its behalf.
- "Defensive publications" 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. Defensive Publications are a vehicle which allows the Linux and broader open source community to create valuable prior art that ensures future freedom-of-action / freedom to operate in the areas covered by them. Many Defensive Publications can be searched for free in IP.com’s Prior Art Database.
- 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
- LOT Network
- 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.
- "Microsoft promises to defend—not attack—Linux with its 60,000 patents". Ars Technica. Oct 10, 2018.
- 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". Heise Media UK Ltd. 2011-05-03. Archived from the original on 17 November 2011. Retrieved 2012-05-30.
- "Microsoft has signed up to the Open Invention Network. We repeat. Microsoft has signed up to the OIN".
- OIN, Open Invention Network Announces Associate Member Program and Recruits Canonical As Its First Associate Member Archived 2010-06-26 at the Wayback Machine.
- 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