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Open Invention Network: A Collaborative Enterprise

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Open Invention Network, a collaborative enterprise that enables innovation in open source and an increasingly vibrant ecosystem in Linux, is the largest patent non-aggressive community in history.

It supports the freedom of action in Linux as a key element of open source software, enabling innovation in Linux and other projects by leveraging a portfolio of more than 1,300 strategic worldwide patents and applications.

Open Invention Network, or OIN, CEO Keith Bergelt, a key speaker at intellectual property and open source events, spoke to RewardExpert about the enterprise’s mission.

Bred from Defense of Linux

“While our patent portfolio is of considerable value — on the order of hundreds of millions of dollars — any person or company can gain access to OIN’s patents for free, as long as they agree not to sue anyone in areas related to the collection of software packages that we call the ‘Linux System,’” Bergelt said.

Picture shows Keith Bergeit - CEO of
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OIN began as a means of defending Linux users from legal threats to intellectual property posed by entities holding patents relevant to core Linux functionality. Litigation back in 2003 was described as a “wakeup call” for industry leaders, such as IBM, who became privy to real threats of open source models and how patent litigation could slow progress.

The anti-innovation agenda, as he described it, between 2003 and 2005 — in the form of providing a vehicle for growth to accommodate the rapid extension of open source and to protect Linux — led to OIN’s founding in 2005. At that time, Linux and other software were in the adoption stage in corporate and government environments.

Companies like IBM, NEC, Philips, Red Hat and Sony aimed to create something that previously never existed: A patent organization that would create and shield a community of Linux developers, distributors and users, who saw open-source benefits via the leveraging of cross licensing.

Shows logos of IBM, PHilips, NEC, Google, RedHat, Sony Suse and Toyota
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“All participants in the community would sign the cross license that would ensure that foundational technologies used by Linux and other open source projects, would be free from intellectual property litigation,” he said. “This would be supplemented with patents and patent applications that OIN would purchase and make available royalty-free to any individual or organization that agreed to cross license and refrain from patent litigation related to functionality that the ‘Linux System’ comprises.”

One Huge Community

Today, OIN is the largest patent non-aggression community in history, with more than 2,400 corporate participants. That is attributed to leadership from companies like Google and Toyota, that recognize the software’s ubiquity and addressed the shift to more collaborative, project-based innovation.

The average person has an almost countless number of touch points with Linux and open source software on a daily basis, including search engines, smart phones, cloud computing, financial and banking networks, mobile networks and automobiles.

“These factors have allowed OIN to grow at a very significant pace over the last 10 years,” he said. “We are now seeing new community members from across all geographic regions, as well as new industries and platforms that include NFV telecommunications services, intelligent vehicles, IoT, e-commerce, blockchain digital ledgers, smart grid power management and embedded parts.”

A Unique Offering

The heart of the community relies on the cross license, inviting anyone to join. Bergelt stresses that participation is at zero financial cost, even if a potential licensee has zero patents. The only stipulation is that community members agree not to sue anyone based on a software library catalog — or, the Linux System.

“This means that the community seeks positive, healthy growth by promoting shared innovation in Linux and core open source technologies,” he said. “As the benefits of shared innovation become more widely understood, more organizations and businesses continue to see a significant value by joining OIN.”

Transformation continues as Linux-based platforms are beginning to offer carriers and enterprises to provide new levels of functionality across cloud and software-defined networks. Recently, KDDI joined the OIN community to offer high-quality telecommunication services and a variety of IoT services, including vehicle telematics and smart meters.

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