ANN Microsoft makes its 60,000 patents open source to help Linux!

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  • Microsoft makes its 60,000 patents open source to help Linux!
  • 微软将其60,000项专利开源以帮助Linux!
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The company is joining the Open Invention Network to protect Linux!

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that it’s joining the Open Invention Network (OIN), an open-source patent group designed to help protect Linux from patent lawsuits. In essence, this makes the company’s library over 60,000 patents open source and available to OIN members,
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(video).


OIN provides a license platform for Linux for around 2,400 companies — from individual developers to huge companies like Google and IBM — and all members get access to both OIN-owned patents and cross-licenses between other OIN licensees, royalty-free.

Microsoft joining is a big step forward for both sides: OIN gets thousands of new patents from Microsoft, and Microsoft is really helping the open-source community that it has shunned in the past. As Scott Guthrie, Microsoft’s executive vice president of the cloud and enterprise group, commented in an interview to ZDNet, “We want to protect open-source projects from IP lawsuits, so we’re opening our patent portfolio to the OIN.”

There are exceptions to what Microsoft is making available — specifically, Windows desktop and desktop application code, which makes sense for many reasons — but otherwise, Microsoft is going open source. And ultimately, that’s a good thing for the whole developer community.

Microsoft joins Open Invention Network to help protect Linux and open source
Posted on October 10, 2018
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Corporate Vice President, Deputy General Counsel


I’m pleased to announce that Microsoft is joining the Open Invention Network (“OIN”), a community dedicated to protecting Linux and other open source software programs from patent risk.
We know Microsoft’s decision to join OIN may be viewed as surprising to some; it is no secret that there has been friction in the past between Microsoft and the open source community over the issue of patents. For others who have followed our evolution, we hope this announcement will be viewed as the next logical step for a company that is listening to customers and developers and is firmly committed to Linux and other open source programs.


Since its founding in 2005, OIN has been at the forefront of helping companies manage patent risks. In the years before the founding of OIN, many open source licenses explicitly covered only copyright interests and were silent about patents. OIN was designed to address this concern by creating a voluntary system of patent cross-licenses between member companies covering Linux System technologies. OIN has also been active in acquiring patents at times to help defend the community and to provide education and advice about the intersection of open source and intellectual property. Today, through the stewardship of its CEO Keith Bergelt and its Board of Directors, the organization provides a license platform for roughly 2,650 companies globally. The licensees range from individual developers and startups to some of the biggest technology companies and patent holders on the planet.

Joining OIN reflects Microsoft’s patent practice evolving in lock-step with the company’s views on Linux and open source more generally. We began this journey over two years ago through programs like Azure IP Advantage, which extended Microsoft’s indemnification pledge to open source software powering Azure services. We doubled down on this new approach when we stood with Red Hat and others to apply GPL v. 3 “cure” principles to GPL v. 2 code, and when we recently joined the LOT Network, an organization dedicated to addressing patent abuse by companies in the business of assertion.

At Microsoft, we take it as a given that developers do not want a binary choice between Windows vs. Linux, or .NET vs Java – they want cloud platforms to support all technologies. They want to deploy technologies at the edge – on any device - that meet customer needs. We also learned that collaborative development through the open source process can accelerate innovation. Following over a decade of work to make the company more open (did you know we open sourced parts of ASP.NET back in 2008?), Microsoft has become one of the largest contributors to open source in the world. Our employees contribute to over 2000 projects, we provide first-class support for all major Linux distributions on Azure, and we have open sourced major projects such as .NET Core, TypeScript, VS Code and Powershell.
Now, as we join OIN, we believe Microsoft will be able to do more than ever to help protect Linux and other important open source workloads from patent assertions. We bring a valuable and deep portfolio of over 60,000 issued patents to OIN. We also hope that our decision to join will attract many other companies to OIN, making the license network even stronger for the benefit of the open source community.


We look forward to making our contributions to OIN and its members, and to working with the community to help open source developers and users protect the Linux ecosystem and encourage innovation with open source software.

Microsoft open-sources its patent portfolio
ZDNet UPDATED: By joining the Open Invention Network, Microsoft is offering its entire patent portfolio to all of the open-source patent consortium's members.

Several years ago, I said the one thing Microsoft has to do --
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-- is stop using its patents against Android vendors. Now, it's joined the
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, an open-source patent consortium. Microsoft has essentially agreed to
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.

Before Microsoft joined, OIN had more than 2,650 community members and owns more than 1,300 global patents and applications. OIN is the largest patent non-aggression community in history and represents a core set of open-source intellectual-property values. Its members include Google, IBM, Red Hat, and SUSE. The OIN patent license and member cross-licenses are available royalty-free to anyone who joins the OIN community.

Also:
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Keith Bergelt, OIN's CEO, commented on Microsoft's announcement in an interview: "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
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and
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, and their predecessor and successor versions."

In a conversation, Erich Andersen, Microsoft's corporate vice president and chief intellectual property (IP) counsel -- that is, Microsoft top patent person -- added: We "pledge our entire patent portfolio to the Linux system. That's not just the Linux kernel, but other packages built on it."

THIS IS HUGE
How many patents does this affect? Andersen said Microsoft is bringing all 60,000 patents to OIN.

Keep in mind, as late as 2014, Microsoft made approximately $3.4 billion from its Android patents.
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. That's serious cash -- even on lucrative Microsoft's balance books.

Andersen knows the move is surprising.

Also:
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In a forthcoming blog post, Andersen wrote, "We know Microsoft's decision to join OIN may be viewed as surprising to some; it is no secret that there has been friction in the past between Microsoft and the open-source community over the issue of patents."

WHAT CHANGED?
In an interview in September, Scott Guthrie, Microsoft's executive vice president of the cloud and enterprise group, told me that Microsoft has undergone a "fundamental philosophical change."

The Redmond giant has been on a journey, he suggested.

"We came from a place where we were not friendly to open source," said Guthrie. But you should "look at our actions over the last five or six years . . . at the end of the day, we've shown by our actions that we're serious about open source."

With this latest move, Guthrie explained, "We want to protect open-source projects from IP lawsuits, so we're opening our patent portfolio to the OIN."

Yes, that's a top Microsoft official.

Also:
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Andersen added, "We are evolving. We're addressing what our customers and developers need. You should judge us by our actions."

This is a major sea-change.

Their actions are showing Microsoft thinks it has more to gain by opening up its patents than by charging for them. And Andersen specifically thinks this is the "next logical step for a company that is listening to customers and developers and is firmly committed to Linux and other open-source programs."

IT'S NOT APRIL FOOLS' DAY
This move didn't come out of nowhere.

Besides Microsoft simply contributing more to open source, Microsoft has been seeking rapprochement with its former IP enemies.

Andersen noted Microsoft pivoted about two years ago with its
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.This gave Azure users the shield of 10,000 Microsoft patents against "baseless patent lawsuits."

Then, he said, "We
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, such as Linux, covered by the GPLv2 code."

Also:
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Finally,
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, an anti-patent troll group.

"They aren't trying to sell you something. Microsoft really has been changing. No one's made a longer journey than Microsoft from a proprietary software company to one that lives with open source," explained Bergelt, OIN's CEO.

WHY HAS MICROSOFT CHANGED SO RADICALLY?

FEATURED STORIES
According to Guthrie, "We recognized open source is something that every developer can benefit from. It's not nice, it's essential. It's not just code, it's community. We don't just throw code on the website. We openly publish our roadmap, and we have 20,000 Microsoft employees on
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. With over 2,000 open-source projects, we're the largest open-source project supporter in the world."

Andersen added, "At Microsoft, we take it as a given that developers do not want a binary choice between Windows vs. Linux, or .NET vs Java -- they want cloud platforms to support all technologies. They want to deploy technologies at the edge -- on any device -- that meet customer needs. We also learned that collaborative development through the open source process can accelerate innovation."

Also:
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So, it makes perfect sense for Microsoft to support open-source software's IP defenses. You see, Microsoft, with the major legacy exception of its Windows desktop and desktop application code, is an open-source company. I know it. It knows it.

"We see open source as central to our company mission and what our customers are trying to achieve," Andersen said.

He continued, "We believe the protection OIN offers the open-source community helps increase global contributions to and adoption of open-source technologies. We are honored to stand with OIN as an active participant in its program to protect against patent aggression in core Linux and other important open-source software technologies."

Let me remind you once again that that's Microsoft -- not, say, Canonical, Red Hat, or SUSE -- talking.

Indeed, Guthrie, Andersen, and Bergelt all said they hope this Microsoft move will help spur other companies that may be reluctant to back up their open-source code and services with their patents and to join the OIN.

Specifically, Bergelt said, "Microsoft's participation in OIN adds to our strong community, which through its breadth and depth has reduced patent risk in core technologies, and unequivocally signals for all companies who are using OSS but have yet to join OIN that the litmus test for authentic behavior in the OSS community includes OIN participation."

IF MICROSOFT CAN JOIN THE OIN, YOU CAN TOO
So, what if your company has already signed a Microsoft patent agreement covering Android, Linux, or other open-source software? Well, it depends, according to Andersen, on the exact contract. I'll add, although I'm not a lawyer, I think if you were an OIN member, you'd be in a much better position to work out a new, better deal with Microsoft.

How do you do that? By agreeing with OIN's community practice of patent non-aggression in core open-source technologies by cross-licensing your Linux System patents to one another on a royalty-free basis.

Also:
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As time has gone on, the definition of "Linux System" has grown wider and wider. OIN patents are similarly licensed royalty free to any organization that agrees not to assert its patents against the Linux System. You can
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. But, before you do that, you should have a long talk with your IP attorneys.

Microsoft took years of internal change and deep consideration to make this fundamental change in both its business model and how it develops it software. In the end, open-source has won, and Microsoft is now a fully fledged open-source company. If they can do it, you can do it.

So, it seems, a leopard can change its spots. A lion and a lamb can lie together. And Microsoft can become an open-source company.

UPDATE: Microsoft clarified that it has licensed its entire patent portfolio to OIN licensees covering the Linux System. Yes, Microsoft has 90,000 total patents and the OIN covers only 60,000. But, that's 90,000 total patent includes those that are pending. Patents that have not been issued cannot be asserted and basically do not exist yet from a legal perspective. Microsoft has licensed all the patents it has in hand. As those other patents are approved, Microsoft will license those as well. That is how the OIN license works.



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