Microsoft open-sources 60,000 patents to help Linux avoid lawsuits

Alfred Osborne
October 11, 2018

Open Invention Network (OIN) is an open source patent group that works to make sure that Linux is safe from the fury of IP lawsuits.

In spite of this, the use of patents to extract royalties was one of the major sticking points within the open source community, used as evidence that Microsoft was not genuine in its commitment to open source principles.

'Joining OIN reflects Microsoft's patent practice evolving in lock-step with the company's views on Linux and open source more generally.

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Corporate Vice President and Deputy General Counsel Erich Andersen said Microsoft brings more than 60,000 issued patents to OIN. Enterprise cloud computing depends heavily on Linux and other open-source technologies, and any type of patent dispute involving open-source technology would send shock waves through the system. The group's CEO Keith said that apart from older Linux Kernel and Android patents, Microsoft's patent library also includes upcoming technologies like LF Energy (an open source initiative for power sector) and HyperLedger (an open source blockchain initiative).

"We pledge our entire patent portfolio to the Linux system". This resulted in frequent clashes with the Android community and others but Microsoft is intent on leaving that behind.

The company has shown increasing warmth to the open source community in recent years, and this latest move means that other OIN members will have access to its patents - with the exception of those relating to Windows and desktop applications. Through its participation in OIN, Microsoft is explicitly acknowledging the importance of open source software to its future growth. More broadly, Microsoft has become more open to open source development (with projects such as TypeScript, Visual Studio Code, and.NET Core all being significant).

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