Open Invention Network Snags Microsoft Patents - InformationWeek

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9/8/2009
11:35 AM
Serdar Yegulalp
Serdar Yegulalp
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Open Invention Network Snags Microsoft Patents

The title says it all: the Open Invention Network, an open source coalition "formed to promote Linux by using patents to create a collaborative environment", has grabbed up a few of Microsoft's patents.

The title says it all: the Open Invention Network, an open source coalition "formed to promote Linux by using patents to create a collaborative environment", has grabbed up a few of Microsoft's patents.

The details are sketchy right now, since no official release has yet been produced. TG Daily and the Wall Street Journal (subscription link) have some preliminary details. From what little has been divulged, the patents in question aren't vital -- but that's Microsoft speaking. They might well be related to things like the FAT file system, which is commonly used in Linux and elsewhere without actually being licensed from Microsoft.

Software patents are perennially touchy territory in the open source world. Like technology itself they can be used for good or ill, and they rarely remain neutral forces. I'm wondering now if the sentiment will swing from "ditch software patents altogether" to "put them in the hands of trusts that serve people and not oppress them" -- such as a nonprofit foundation. That way, the patents in question could be licensed to various entities in different implementations: an open source implementation could be governed by different rules as a closed-source one.

Right now, though, most of the relevant patents that could benefit from an arrangement like this are behind closed doors. I find it unlikely a good percentage of them could be liberated by being bought out -- if only because of the sheer amount of money that would have to change hands. But why not start small?

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