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Open Invention Network Begins Stockpiling Patents - UPDATED
Thursday, November 10 2005 @ 02:41 AM EST

I was going to put this Wall St. Journal story in News Picks, but then I decided it is so important, it belongs here, so everyone sees it:
Five big backers of Linux are funding an effort to buy up related software patents, the latest in a series of efforts to reduce legal risks that could impede the wider use of the operating system.

A new nonprofit company, called Open Invention Network, is receiving an undisclosed amount of money from International Business Machines Corp., Sony Corp., Philips Electronics NV, Novell Inc. and Red Hat Inc. It plans to buy Linux-related patents, offering royalty-free licenses to companies and individuals that pledge not to assert their own patents against the network's other licensees. . . .

The Open Innovation Network plans to act as an alternative to the trolls. "We are going to be out there, hopefully buying the patents that they would try to acquire and taking them off the table," said Jerry Rosenthal, the company's chief executive.

The network's initial assets will include a collection of patents that were purchased for $15.5 million by a subsidiary of Novell from Commerce One Inc., an electronic-commerce company that filed for bankruptcy-court protection last year.

(The New York Times has the story now too.) And here's the new company's home page.

Thank you, Novell, for buying up Commerce One Inc.'s patents. I still have conversations sometimes about patent pools, and I still come across folks who don't think they have any value. I always try my best to explain why I think they do, and I'm very happy to see that IBM, Red Hat, Sony, Philips and Novell not only agree but are doing something massive about it. The patent threat is real, and GNU/Linux needs protection. Individual FOSS developers can't afford to join the Rich Guy's Patent Club and do cross-licensing deals, so the only legal option for them is to pay royalties, and that's a mighty quick way to ruin the value of GNU/Linux. Let's not even talk about what happens to the GPL if the globe is papered with hostile patents. Companies who see the danger are stepping forward. It's not the total solution, because patent law currently is so noxious, but it's a vital piece.

The real solution is for patents and software to get a divorce on the grounds of incompatibility. However, since that is not likely to happen in the US any time soon, ideas like this can create a safer environment for FOSS development. So if you hear about a company going out of business and you know they have Linux-related patents, tell Open Invention Network, or email me, and I'll pass it along. Don't just leave a comment though. The idea is to buy up such patents before others can.

Imagine a SCO with patents, and you'll understand the urgency, particularly when you remember who funded SCO's little adventures.


Here's the Open Invention Network's press release. The most significant statement, to my eyes, is Red Hat's Mark Webbink's comment:

"By providing this unique collaborative framework, Open Invention Network will set open source developers free to do what they do best -- innovate," said Mark Webbink, senior vice president at Red Hat. "At the same time, Open Invention Network extends to distributors and users of open source software freedom from concern about software patents."

Here's the complete press release:



Investors Include IBM, Novell, Philips, Red Hat, and Sony

New York (November 10, 2005) - Open Invention Network (OIN), a company that has and will acquire patents and offer them royalty-free to promote Linux and spur innovation globally, was launched today with financial support from IBM, Novell, Philips, Red Hat, and Sony. The company, believed to be the first of its kind, is creating a new model where patents are openly shared in a collaborative environment and used to facilitate the advancement of applications for, and components of, the Linux operating system.

"Open collaboration is critical for driving innovation, which fuels global economic growth. Impediments to collaboration on the Linux operating system seriously jeopardize innovation. A new model of intellectual property management for Linux must be established to maintain advances in software innovation - regardless of the size or type of business or organization," said Jerry Rosenthal, chief executive officer at Open Invention Network. The company will foster an open, collaborative environment that stimulates advances in Linux - helping ensure the continuation of global innovation that has benefited software vendors, customers, emerging markets and investors, among others.

Patents owned by Open Invention Network will be available on a royalty-free basis to any company, institution or individual that agrees not to assert its patents against the Linux operating system or certain Linux-related applications.

Open Invention Network believes that creating a new system to manage and ensure access to key patents for the Linux operating system will have a significant economic impact. According to International Data Corporation, the worldwide Linux business is expected to grow 25.9 percent annually, doubling from $20 billion in 2005 to more than $40 billion in 2008.

"Open Invention Network is not focused on income or profit generation with our patents, but on using them to promote a positive, fertile ecosystem for the Linux operating system and to drive innovation and choice into the marketplace," said Mr. Rosenthal. "We intend to spur innovation in IT and across industries by helping software developers focus on what they do best - developing great Linux-related software with greater assurance about intellectual property issues."

Among Open Invention Network's initial patent holdings is a set of business-to-business electronic commerce patents that were purchased from Commerce One by JGR, a subsidiary of Novell.

For more information go to

Investor Statements

"The formation of Open Invention Network signals a growing movement where companies today are looking beyond their own organizational boundaries," said Jim Stallings, vice president of intellectual property and open standards at IBM. "They are strategically sharing their intellectual property and building broader industry partnerships in order to accelerate innovation and drive new economic growth."

"We are proud to be a founding member of the Open Invention Network," said Jack Messman, CEO of Novell. "While Novell has been a major contributor to the open source community and has shown its commitment to promoting and fostering the adoption of open source and open standards, this initiative raises our leadership to the highest level. With this new initiative, users of open source software will have access to a broad set of technologies that will help foster an even more robust community of developers, customers, business partners and investors. This is a breakthrough idea whose time has come."

"Philips is actively involved in the creation and funding of Open Invention Network because we believe that OIN will make the Linux platform more attractive for users. This will stimulate developers to focus their resources on creating high-value, innovative software on this open platform," said Ruud Peters, chief executive officer of Philips Intellectual Property & Standards. "We believe that this initiative will widely boost the use of the Linux platform and its applications."

Red Hat
"By providing this unique collaborative framework, Open Invention Network will set open source developers free to do what they do best -- innovate," said Mark Webbink, senior vice president at Red Hat. "At the same time, Open Invention Network extends to distributors and users of open source software freedom from concern about software patents."

"Linux is clearly an important technology for Sony and the global community in general," said Yoshihide Nakamura, SVP, Corporate Executive of Sony Corporation. "We believe Linux and open standards will provide companies with more options for the development of innovative products. We have and will continue to support initiatives like Open Invention Network that promote a positive environment for these developments."


Open Invention Network Begins Stockpiling Patents - UPDATED | 177 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Is this a good idea?
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, November 10 2005 @ 02:52 AM EST
Well, what if someone starts filing patents now and offering them for sale?
It sounds like money press.

[ Reply to This | # ]

OT here please
Authored by: jbb on Thursday, November 10 2005 @ 02:56 AM EST
Clickable links, HTML mode.

Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make
you commit injustices.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Corrections here
Authored by: jbb on Thursday, November 10 2005 @ 02:58 AM EST
So PJ can find them all in one place.

Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make
you commit injustices.

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • Corrections here - Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, November 10 2005 @ 06:55 AM EST
What we need are Patent-Prevention-Patents
Authored by: SimonK on Thursday, November 10 2005 @ 03:21 AM EST
What would be a good solution IMHO would be a new legal construct.

I call it a "Non-Patent"

-You can get a Non-Patent for everything you can get a Patent now.
-A Non-Patent should be available at a fixed affordable cost (for instance 500$/€)
-You obtain no rights through a non-patent but everything that is covered by a Non-Patent can not be patented by someone else

Greetings from Germany
Simon Klaiber
Private - Business

[ Reply to This | # ]

Do we have SCO to thank?
Authored by: eamacnaghten on Thursday, November 10 2005 @ 03:51 AM EST
The FOSS community, whom I like to consider myself a member, was in a way very fortunate that SCO did what they did.

SCO was (is?) a mouse that roared. I am aware the saga is not over yet, but I think it is unlikely that they will be successful in causing harm. To thank for that we have the fact that SCO went into war relatively unarmed, with no patents and, so it appears, no copyrights for the IP they were claining. Also Darl's performance to the peanut gallery hardly helped their cause.

What SCO has achieved is a wake-up call. Their shenanegins have resulted in the community organizing itself better to deal with things like this (thanks PJ for your inspired leadership here, by the way). Although we are not in a massively strong position, we are a fair bit better prepared for the oncoming battle than we would have been without SCO.

Web Sig: Eddy Currents

[ Reply to This | # ]

Silly Acronym:
Authored by: darkonc on Thursday, November 10 2005 @ 04:56 AM EST
Open Invention Network ...

OINk -- because software patents are a pig.

Powerful, committed communication. Touching the jewel within each person and bringing it to life..

[ Reply to This | # ]

Only helps software patents survive
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, November 10 2005 @ 05:34 AM EST
This action only funds patent attourneys and lawyers in the software patent

It is an extremely expensive and rather short-sighted way to NOT get rid of
software patents.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Another patent
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, November 10 2005 @ 05:51 AM EST
"That is that a patent has been discovered that allows Apple to protect the
installation of the Mac OS X to just Apple-produced hardware. The patent
describes a process whereby users would be able to load one of three operating
systems as their primary OS and then load a secondary operating system as their
secondary OS."

[ Reply to This | # ]

How about the BSDs?
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, November 10 2005 @ 06:08 AM EST
What is the policy of this Open Invention Network regarding the BSDs? If they explicitly limit themselves to "Linux" and not something like "anything compliant with the OSI Open Source Definition" it is... ehm... rather useless. Even for software you want to write that runs on Linux (because it is not Linux).

[ Reply to This | # ]

SCO with patents?
Authored by: TonyW on Thursday, November 10 2005 @ 07:29 AM EST
You don't have to imagine it. I think we can just look at the example of Jerome Lemelson, the so-called patent king.

See also his entry in wikipedia.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Perhaps this puts it in perspective
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, November 10 2005 @ 07:31 AM EST
Someone at IBM patents something basic like "systems that interconnect via
ethernet TCP/IP" and put it in the patent pool. IBM contacts microsoft to
negoatiate over taking their patented processes out of their version of XML in
exchange for not enforcing the patent against Microsft products. What is
internet access worth to Microsoft?

What would really be intersting would be to reverse engineer the various closed
source OS options to see how many patent pool patents they are violating.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Open Invention Network Begins Stockpiling Patents
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, November 10 2005 @ 07:43 AM EST
I've got the network version of Grisoft AVG, works fine and give central
control. Was about £4 per seat per year for a 2 year 50 use license.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Open Invention Network Begins Stockpiling Patents
Authored by: blacklight on Thursday, November 10 2005 @ 08:18 AM EST
If the owner of a patent sues everyone and his brother for patent infringement,
I'd say that the patent had been improperly awarded in the first place, because
said patent obviously failed the non-obviousness test - the
"discovery" is obvious to everyone in the industry but not to the dim
bulbs of the USPTO.

Know your enemies well, because that's the only way you are going to defeat
them. And know your friends even better, just in case they become your enemies.

[ Reply to This | # ]

"Patent Troll"
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, November 10 2005 @ 09:14 AM EST
I followed the link because it would be a treat to see the Wall Street Journal
use the phrase "patent troll" in a news article. Unfortunately, they
rewrote the article since PJ quoted it, and the phrase is no longer there.

[ Reply to This | # ]

This may not work
Authored by: Prototrm on Thursday, November 10 2005 @ 09:25 AM EST
This is a great move on the part of some very big companies, and I welcome it.
And yet, I am a bit concerned that, with all these powerhouse firms moving to
put a band-aid on the patent problems in the United States, that a genuine
solution -- banning software patents -- will now be even more unlikely than

This will not, for example, solve situations like the Eolas patents, where you
have a single person with absolutely nothing to loose but Venture Capital (i.e.,
not his own money) when he sues big companies for Patent Infringement. Big
companies usually fear retribution from their targets, because they make
something (usually lots of somethings) that may violate the patent of another.
That's why when a big company sues for patent infringement, people refer to it
as the Nuclear Option. It can get really messy. A company that generates nothing
but patent lawsuits fears none of this.

This kind of action should reduce the risk of patent suits against FOSS, but
it's not a solution to the problem. By creating the illusion of a solution,
these companies may have actually done more harm than good.

[ Reply to This | # ]

I like the quote "OIN ... to spur innovation"
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, November 10 2005 @ 11:46 AM EST
Since the patent problem is a direct result of the courts expanding the scope of
patentability until it broke, when will the courts realize their rulings are
unconstitutional because they inhibit innovation?

[ Reply to This | # ] is only in Flash(tm)
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, November 10 2005 @ 12:13 PM EST
The website of the Open Invention Network uses a proprietary plugin as the only
way to view/enter their website. There is no "skip intro" link. So if
you don't have Shockwave Flash(tm), or don't want to enable it for security
reasons, you're out of luck.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Interesting Thought....
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, November 10 2005 @ 12:31 PM EST
Wow! Just imagine if Novell went and placed any and all patents it owns in unix
under OIN. That would really, really have an interesting effect, I think.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Necessary Counter to Intellectual Ventures and Others
Authored by: rdc3 on Thursday, November 10 2005 @ 12:34 PM EST

If OIN doesn't buy up patents, there are plenty of other outfits that will. Since we don't know what stance those other outfits will take towards open source, it is much safer to have OIN buy them.

The entry of OIN may drive up the price of patent pools. This could be a good thing, making life more costly for patent trolls.

[ Reply to This | # ]

MICROSOFT Supports This!
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, November 10 2005 @ 12:51 PM EST
Microsoft, IBM Lead Group To Consolidate Linux Patents

By W. David Gardner,

A sextet of tech giants linked up on Thurs to promote Linux globally, with the unveiling of a new company called the Open Invention Network (OIN).

The six are Microsoft, IBM, Novell, Philips, Red Hat and Sony.


HAHAHAHAHA! The reporter here made a huge mistake here... e/software/173601498

[ Reply to This | # ]

Open Invention Network Begins Stockpiling Patents - UPDATED
Authored by: tknarr on Thursday, November 10 2005 @ 01:17 PM EST

The only problem I see with this is it's limited protection. The OIN provides protection against patent attack by companies that actually make things which might infringe on patents in the pool. The big threat, though, is from "IP" companies whose only asset and product is the patents they hold and their license-fee claims. They don't make anything, so they can't infringe on your patents. A patent pool provides no protection from them. The only protection will be for them to cause enough problems for large companies who actually do make things that those companies finally realize that software and business-method patents are more of a threat to them than an asset.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Sony -- A love/hate relationship.
Authored by: kutulu on Thursday, November 10 2005 @ 02:52 PM EST

It's pretty bad when not even the entire company can decide wether or not to be
evil with regards to their IP.

On the one hand, you have Sony (the tech side) taking steps like this to make
sure their IP is available for use by those who need it. On the other hand, you
have Sony (the music side) telling us that it's perfectly acceptable to
compromise my PC with a hidden root kit before I'm allowed to listen to the
music I just bought, becase "most people won't notice".

So do we cheer them or jeer them? I want to reward their good behavior by
purchasing stuff from them, but I want to punish their horrible behavior by
boycotting them. I wish they'd just make up their mind.


[ Reply to This | # ]

Open Invention Network Begins Stockpiling Patents - UPDATED
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, November 10 2005 @ 03:10 PM EST
This sounds like MAD where the cost of retaliation for being
the one to fire the first shot is too much to bear and makes
the whole effort moot. The weapons are there but no one
will use them. Not a great method but considering human
nature, a realistic one. Probably will work until it
becomes unnecessary.

[ Reply to This | # ]

GPL style license for patents ?
Authored by: tizan on Thursday, November 10 2005 @ 03:20 PM EST

Could they open these patents by giving a license GPL style...
that is all codes written using these patents have to be
distributed with a GPL compliant license.

Just a thought.....

tizan: What's the point of knowledge if you don't pass it on. Its like storing
all your data on a 1-bit write only memory !

[ Reply to This | # ]

Here's a few, going cheap?
Authored by: star-dot-h on Thursday, November 10 2005 @ 03:21 PM EST
For starters, they could try getting these: /


Free software on every PC on every desk

[ Reply to This | # ]

I don't like this....
Authored by: whig on Thursday, November 10 2005 @ 03:57 PM EST
What's to stop a company (Microsoft, for instance) from mounting an attack on
Linux / FOSS by selling one or more patents they would use against us to a pure
(so-called) "IP" firm, which has no other business that might require
a patent license from OIN or anyone else?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Open Invention Network Begins Stockpiling Patents - UPDATED
Authored by: adobriyan on Thursday, November 10 2005 @ 04:01 PM EST
> Patents owned by Open Invention Network will be available on a royalty-free
> basis to any company, institution or individual that agrees not to assert
> its patents against the Linux operating system or certain Linux-related
> applications.

Does anybody understands if this applies to Linux kernel or
Linux kernel + GNU stuff?

[ Reply to This | # ]

How can we know it's working?
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, November 11 2005 @ 02:52 AM EST
The first thing that struck me as I was reading this is that, even if the pool
is effective and helps reduce the threat of patent lawsuits, nobody will notice.
The only evidence of its effectiveness would be in a relative lack of lawsuits.
And even if such a reduction could be measured as such, it would be very
difficult to conclusively show a cause-and-effect relationship between it and
the patent pool itself.

So I'm afraid that the detractors of such schemes will always be able to say
"it doesn't work", simply because it's almost impossible to determine
if it actually *is* working. It's a bit like putting little security warning
stickers on all the windows of your house. If nobody attempts to break in, is
it because of the stickers, or simply because nobody has targeted your house
(for whatever other reason)?

(For the record, I think it's a great idea myself, because it's about the only
realistic defensive action that can be taken outside of abolishing software
patents completely.)
The poster formerly known as m(_ _)m

[ Reply to This | # ]

Open Invention Network Begins Stockpiling Patents - UPDATED
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, November 11 2005 @ 08:01 AM EST
It speaks volumes about the wonderful patent system that a group like this is
even needed.

I hope the government is watching and learning what the the patent system is
doing to software.

[ Reply to This | # ]

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