Microsoft Open Sources 60,000 Patents To Help Out Linux
By Lionel Morpheus, posted on 29 October 2018
No, it’s not some bad taste late April Fools prank, tech giant Microsoft really has announced that it has opened 60,000 of its patents to the open-source patent organization the Open Invention Network. (OIN).
While the news does mean that Microsoft has all but effectively given up potential revenue of billions of dollars in future patent related royalties, the company doesn’t seem to care. It will be interesting to see if shareholders do though. As Forbes.com has noted in its coverage of the announcement, by 2015, Microsoft had made some $6,000,000,000 from Android patents.
The move though, is part of a relatively new found altruism by MS to help protect Linux and other open-source software from patent law suits and other legal proceedings. That, and the fact that Microsoft clearly doesn’t see Linux as any threat to its market dominance anytime soon.
Here’s the opening paragraph of the announcement by Microsoft on their blog:
“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.”
What is the OIN?
The OIN is essentially a license platform repository for (mostly) Linux based software, and is used by almost two and a half thousand companies around the globe, from bedroom-based developers to other tech giants such as IBM, Sony, Ford, and even Google.
Anyone who is a registered member of the Open Invention Network can use all existing OIN patents royalty free, and now have access to 60,000 previously patent covered software.
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.”
Don’t be expecting Windows 10 replica clones showing up anytime soon however. As was to be expected, Microsoft hasn’t opened up all it patents. Windows Desktop and specifically, the desktop application code is still fully proprietary. Microsoft may be being generous with their patents, but they aren’t idiots.
Eric Adams, March 19, 2019