Open Invention Network

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Open Invention Network
Limited liability company
Industry Intellectual property
Founded November 10, 2005
Headquarters Durham, NC, United States
Key people
Keith Bergelt
Services Linux Protection

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.[1]


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. In December 2013, Google became a Member. 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 [2]

Open Invention Network has more than 1,000 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 January 2016, OIN had more than 1,850 community members (licensees).[3]

The list of key applications considered by OIN, according to Red Hat's Mark Webbink,[4] includes Apache, Eclipse, Evolution, Fedora Directory Server, Firefox, GIMP, GNOME, KDE, Mono, Mozilla, MySQL, Nautilus, OpenLDAP,, 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[5] when used as part of a GNU/Linux system. On August 7, 2007, Google also joined OIN as a licensee.[6] On October 2, 2007, Barracuda Networks joined OIN as a licensee.[7] On March 23, 2009 TomTom joined OIN as a licensee.[8] In May 2011, the European Open Source software manufacturer Univention joined OIN as a licensee.[9]

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.[10]

Ways to participate with Open Invention Network[edit]

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, IBM, NEC, Philips, Red Hat, Sony, and SUSE.
  • 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.[11]

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.[12] The announcement drew criticism from anti-software-patent activist and a European lobbyist Florian Müller,[13][14] who had previously criticized[15] 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.[16]

Linux defenders[edit]

OIN offers and sponsors free services that eliminate low-quality patents—the food stuffs of aggressive strategics and patent trolls.[2] 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 cost of hosting of Defensive Publications on databases accessible by patent and trademark office examiners around the world is borne by the program’s sponsors.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cover Pages web site, Open Invention Network Collects Patents to Promote Royalty-Free Linux, November 11, 2005.
  2. ^ Open Invention Network web site, Management Team. Consulted on June 26, 2008.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Mark Webbink in Linux Magazine, The Open Invention Network, April 27th 2006.
  5. ^ Stephen Shankland (2007-03-26). "Oracle bands with open-source patent group". Retrieved 2007-03-27. 
  6. ^ InformationWeek, Google To Join Group To Protect Linux From Possible Patent Challenge, August 7, 2007
  7. ^ Matt Asay, Barracuda Networks: An unsung hero of open source and a new member of Open Invention Network,, In the News, October 2, 2007.
  8. ^ PRWEB, Open Invention Network Extends The Linux Ecosystem As TomTom Becomes Licensee.
  9. ^ "Univention joins the OIN patent pool". Heise Media UK Ltd. 2011-05-03. Archived from the original on 11 November 2011. Retrieved 2012-05-30. 
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ OIN, Open Invention Network Announces Associate Member Program and Recruits Canonical As Its First Associate Member.
  13. ^ TheRegister, Ubuntu daddy in patent class of its own
  14. ^ Daniweb, Canonical Assimilated by the OIN Borg
  15. ^ ZDNet, Mueller calls OIN a scam
  16. ^ [1] "Study on the worldwide use of FRAND-committed patents"

External links[edit]