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Open Invention Network

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Open Invention Network (OIN) is a consortium, founded in 2005,[1] which holds patents for use for defence of certain popular free software packages.

OIN is not opposed to software patents.[2]


Pact of non-aggression against certain software packages

The core of OIN's licensee agreement is a licence grant from each licensee, allowing all other licensees to distribute the list of free software packages[3] which OIN calls the "Linux System":

You, on behalf of yourself and your Affiliates, (a) grant to each Licensee and its Subsidiaries that are Subsidiaries as of the Eligibility Date a royalty-free, worldwide, nonexclusive, non-transferable license under Your Patents for making, having made, using, importing, and Distributing any Linux System;[4]

Only specified versions are covered

The list of packages gives a version number for each. The protection is limited to the features in that version number - some of which refer to software from 2005. Later releases also get protection, but only with regards to the functionality which was already present in the named version number. Here's the first mention of this:[5]

"Linux Environment Component" - shall mean any of the software packages whose released source code shall be identified on the OIN® website, or a Predecessor Release or Successor Release of any of such packages, including bug fixes and error corrections thereto.

And, more importantly, here's the (narrow) definition of "Successor Release":

"Successor Release" - shall mean, as to any Linux Environment Component, a later release of such component that has the same overall functionality as such component and (a) is Distributed by an open source maintainer of the component which maintainer is identified on the OIN® website, to the extent such later release contains modifications to existing functionality for: compatibility (e.g., standards compliance or porting), performance enhancements (e.g., increasing execution speed, code maintainability, security or bug resistance), usability, and localization and internationalization, but to the extent the later release contains new functionality which does not exist in such component, the portion of the later release providing such new functionality is not included as part of "Successor Release;" or (b) is Distributed by one not identified as a maintainer of the component on the OIN® website, but in the case of this clause (b) only to the extent of the same code as in such component or in a later release described in the foregoing clause (a). To the extent that any later release described in the foregoing clause (b) contains code that does not exist in such component or in a later release described in the foregoing clause (a), such code is not included as part of "Successor Release."

Members and licensees


OIN was founded by five companies in November 2005. NEC joined as the sixth member in September 2006.[6][7] The membership is thus: (last checked August 2010)


As of June 2010, OIN has 110 licensees.[8] Licensees with notable patent histories include Barracuda Networks,[9] Canonical, Ltd, Google, OpenMoko, openWrt, Oracle, Tom Tom (see MS v. Tom Tom), and Turbolinux.

Associate Members

In June 2010, OIN launched an "Associate Member" program, with Canonical, Ltd as its first Associate Member.[10] (Can you help? I can't find anything in the press release or anywhere else to say what the difference between a licensee and an Associate Member is.)

Purchasing patents

OIN purchases patents which it thinks might otherwise by used by an unfriendly entity for litigation or to spread uncertainty.

OIN's first notable patent acquisition was the "Commerce One" set of patents in November 2005.[11][12] This set of 7 patents plus 32 patent applications, focussing on XML and e-commerce, was bought by subsidiary of Novell for US$15.5 million.

In 2009, OIN's patent acquisition plan were expanded with the launching of the Distinguished Inventors Patent Acquisition.[13]

In September 2009, OIN purchased 22 patents from Microsoft (presumably the OpenGL patents). See: Microsoft sells patents to OIN, 2009.

Defensive publication

(See: Prior art database)

OIN helps developers to document their innovations on IP.com, a database used in prior art searches by the USPTO.

Related pages on en.swpat.org

External links


  1. "Open Invention Network Formed to Promote Linux and Spur Innovation Globally Through Access to Key Patents". http://xml.coverpages.org/OIN-Announce.html. 
  2. "A no-fly zone to protect Linux from patent trolls". http://features.blogs.fortune.cnn.com/2008/12/08/a-no-fly-zone-to-protect-linux-from-patent-trolls/. ""We're not anti-patent by any stretch of the imagination," says Bergelt. "More patents is fine with me, as long as they're high quality. Quality is the drum we beat."" 
  3. http://www.openinventionnetwork.com/pat_linuxdefpop.html
  4. http://www.openinventionnetwork.com/pat_license_agreement.php
  5. http://www.openinventionnetwork.com/pat_linuxdef.php
  6. http://www.openinventionnetwork.com/press_release11_14_06.php
  7. http://java.sys-con.com/node/275688
  8. http://www.openinventionnetwork.com/licensees.php
  9. http://www.barracudanetworks.com/ns/news_and_events/index.php?nid=216
  10. "Open Invention Network Announces Associate Member Program and Recruits Canonical As Its First Associate Member". http://www.openinventionnetwork.com/press_release06_22_10.php. 
  11. http://xml.coverpages.org/ni2005-11-11-a.html
  12. http://www.openinventionnetwork.com/press_release11_05.php
  13. http://www.h-online.com/open/news/item/Open-Invention-Network-starts-buying-patents-742787.html

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