Google has announced that it has joined Open Invention Network (OIN) as a board member to deepen its involvement in pursuit of promoting, protecting and openly sharing Linux patents among its members and the open-source community. Some time back, Cisco and Twitter also joined OIN. In the tech space, this Linux patent protection consortium has emerged as a significant name as it wins great support from tech giants like Google Inc. In other domains also, such defensive patent pool consortiums are emerging because they have some real advantages for businesses and community at large. We have discussed about one such patent pool in our earlier blog article BMS & Medicines Patent Pool Collaborates Over HIV Drug “Atazanavir”
Coming to the OIN, it is a company formed in 2005 by IBM, Sony, Philips, Red Hat, and Novell. In 2009, it acquired 30 patents from Allied Security Trust (a defensive patent management organization to which Microsoft sold its Linux patents) to avert any financial obstacles posed against Linux companies by patent assertion entities or others. Since then this Linux intellectual property (IP) defense group has added more than 360 members and over 700 new software packages including popular packages such as Kernel Virtual Machine (KVM), Git, OpenJDK, and WebKit.
The patents owned by Open Invention Network are cross-licensed among all its community members, whether companies, individuals or institutions that agrees not to assert its patents against the OIN’s and thus, encourages collaboration between Linux companies, developers, distributors, sellers, resellers and end-users. It also defends them in case a patent infringement lawsuit is filed. In addition, OIN offers and sponsors free services that eliminate low-quality patents through its Linux Defenders program. This database is accessible to all the PTO’s around the world and cost of making it accessible is borne by the OIN members and sponsors. Linux and broader open source community can contribute prior-art (in ways given below) and get rights to Linux patents for using in new and innovative products, services and applications-
• As “Defensive Publications”
• As “Peer to Patent” to ensure that the patent office grant patents to only the most novel ideas.
• As “Post-Issue Peer to Patent” to help invalidate previously issued patents that were issued in error because of the patent office’s lack of awareness of relevant prior art.
Participation in patent pools has certain definite advantages. This is the reason why tech giants like Googleare increasing their involvement in such consortiums. However, it is time that more and more companies realize that even more involvement in such consortiums is required. It will not hamper but promote their businesses and also save their time, effort and money that is wasted in unnecessary patent litigation and licensing negotiations.