Microsoft shares 60,000 patents with consortium to protect open-source software

Posted 11 October 2018 23:50 CET by Jan Willem Aldershoff

Microsoft has become a member of the Open Invention Network, a consortium of companies that share patents to protect open-source software, like Linux, against patent claims. Interestingly, Microsoft filed patent claims against Linux and Android in the past. One of Microsoft’s CEO’s, Steve Ballmer, also once called open-source a cancer.

By joining the Open Invention Network (OIN), Microsoft shares a portfolio of nearly 60,000 patents. These patents will become available royalty -free and unlimited to other members of the Open Invention Network. OIN has more than 2,650 members including Google, IBM, Sony, SUSE, and Toyota.

Members cross-license Linux patents to each other on a royalty free basis. Patents owned by OIN are also licensed royalty-free to any other organization that agrees to not assert its patents against Linux.

In an interview with ZDNet, Keith Bergelt, OIN’s CEO, commented on Microsoft’s announcement, “this is everything Microsoft has, and it covers everything related to older open-source technologies such as Android, the Linux kernel, and OpenStack; newer technologies such as LF Energy and HyperLedger, and their predecessor and successor versions.”

Microsoft wasn’t known as a supporter of the open-source community, former Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer once called open-source a cancer. He also said on many occasions that Linux infringed Microsoft’s intellectual property and that it would lead to claims. In 2011, Microsoft was in talks with Android device manufacturers like Huawei, HTC and Samsung to make them pay for Microsoft’s patents related to Android. The companies paid billions of dollars to Microsoft.

Nowadays Microsoft embraces open-source. The company is a paid member of the Linux Foundation, is a member of the LOT Network, that protects developers against patent trolls, and the company has open-sourced some of its own software like .NET Server Core, Entity Framework and Visual Studio Code. The company also acquired open-source hosting platform GitHub earlier this year.

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