Microsoft embraces open source community by joining Open Invention Network

Doris Richards
October 11, 2018

"We pledge our entire patent portfolio to the Linux system".

In a surprise move, Microsoft has announced its membership of the Open Innovation Network - and has specifically stated it is doing so to protect Linux, along with other open source software, from patent risk.

OIN was originally founded in 2005 as an effort to protect Linux and its users from patent aggression. Despite that, Microsoft has made more than 60,000 of its patents open source. This group includes startups, individual developers, and the biggest tech firms in the world.

Andersen's mention of "friction" is putting it lightly. Enterprise cloud computing depends heavily on Linux and other open-source technologies, and any type of patent dispute involving open-source technology would send shock waves through the system.

Microsoft is open-sourcing its vast patent portfolio. In 2016, the company even became a member of the Linux Foundation.

The Verge added some things, like Windows desktop and desktop application code, will not be going open-source, though that's to be expected. "For others who have followed our evolution as a company, we hope this will be viewed as the next logical step for a company that is listening to its customers and is firmly committed to Linux and other open source programs".

Microsoft didn't get into specifics about how the new patent licensing arrangement will work, so it isn't totally clear if the software giant is ending any ongoing royalty payments from Linux vendors. It's also worth noting that the members of OIN can cross-license their patents to other members.

Joining OIN reflects Microsoft's patent practice evolving in lock-step with the company's views on Linux and open source more generally.

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