The following list is a compilation of the most common questions we receive from prospective members, from all over the world.
If you have a question that is not answered here, or elsewhere on our website, please email [email protected].
Given that Open Invention Network offers a “free license” and does not collect fees associated with its license or any other activities in which it engages to support patent risk mitigation in the Open Source community, what is the OIN business model? (Or, how is OIN membership free and what is the “catch”?)
By design, Open Invention Network (OIN) does not have a revenue-based business model. It is an Open Source Software (OSS) community resource dedicated to limiting patent risk associated with the adoption of Open Source code. Participation in its large and growing community of licensees is free and OIN’s operational costs are borne by its funding members.
Early on in the history of the OSS movement, OIN’s six original funding members (IBM, NEC, Sony, Philips, Red Hat and SUSE) recognized the importance of Open Source as a modality to support unrivaled levels of innovation and together created OIN to safeguard OSS adoption. The original six funding members were joined by Google and Toyota, and today the eight core funding members of OIN bear the costs associated with growing a worldwide community in which members forebear litigation and engage in a cross-license of patents related to core Open Source functionality. With each new licensee, OIN is aiding in the reduction of patent risk, which further encourages OSS adoption and offers an incalculable benefit in terms of innovation.
Finally, please note that the OIN license is a reciprocal arrangement. In other words, OIN community members agree that they will not assert their patents that read on the Linux System Definition against you, and you agree to do the same. All community members give up rights through the OIN license, but they get much more back through the OIN license from the 3,700+ other community members.
What are my obligations under the OIN License Agreement? Conversely, what benefits do I secure if I sign the OIN License?
Open Invention Network’s License Agreement is innovative in that it offers the same benefit to any and all participants including companies, organizations, and individual developers. This includes founding members as well.
By signing the agreement and becoming part of the OIN Community, an entity is obligated to cross license its own patents that contain claims which read on core Linux/OSS functionality and not assert these patents against other OIN community members.
Our community members own 2.86 million patents & applications in aggregate, up from 2.79 million last year. In total, our community increased its patent & application holdings by over 70,000 in 2022, significantly reducing Open Source risks from patent aggression in the Linux System.
Outside of signing the OIN License Agreement (addressed above), there are no ongoing obligations for members.
Am I permitted to become a participant in the OIN licensee community and take advantage of its benefits if I don't own, or plan on patenting, any technology?
Ownership of patents is not a requirement to participate in the OIN licensee community and enjoy its benefits. OIN welcomes all organizations to join OIN, as this helps reinforce the community norm of keeping core Linux and adjacent Open Source technologies protected from patent litigation.
Open Invention Network’s technical committee works with the broader Open Source community, including key OSS project leaders, to identify core Open Source project code suitable for inclusion in its Linux System Definition, which comprises several thousand discrete elements of code that, taken together, establish the scope of the OIN cross-license. To stay up-to-date with innovations in Open Source technologies and ensure the relevance/value of its cross-license, OIN periodically updates the Linux System Definition, typically on an 18-24-month cycle.
Open Invention Network employs a thoughtful and deliberate process to identify and review candidate packages nominated by key Open Source projects, individuals and organizations. These OSS packages are reviewed and evaluated based on the project from which they are drawn, the relative importance of the code to those supporting the project and producing products based thereon, and their history of adoption/use. Given the importance of the Linux System Definition to OIN’s efficacy in enabling patent non-aggression in the core of Linux/OSS, OIN applies a conservative, consensus-driven approach to selecting package additions to the Linux System Definition.
How can I nominate packages to be considered for prospective inclusion in the Linux System Definition?
Please contact Rob Taylor, OIN’s Director of the Linux System, at firstname.lastname@example.org. He will guide you in making your nomination and coordinate with the OIN Technical Committee to ensure such nomination(s) can be properly evaluated for prospective inclusion, in a current or future update, to the Linux System Definition.
As announced on January 18, 2022 the Linux System contains 3,730 packages from a broad spectrum of organizations and groups representing a large share of the body of existing, de-facto standard Open Source projects. Almost all packages are basic platform-independent functions of modern computer systems. They cover the essential building blocks of today’s Linux platforms from embedded computers to mobile phones and cars, and are used in a wide variety of devices. Main technology areas of software packages include, but are not limited to, common base packages (used in most Linux configurations), software engineering, enterprise computing, mobile, networking and security, cloud computing, web applications, containers, configuration management, software development, automotive and embedded systems. The chances are that even if you do not think your company is using much OSS code, it is quite likely that if your products are at all software-centric then there will be a significant Linux/OSS component. In fact, if you are a hardware company, you will quite likely become increasingly reliant on software in the future and, as such, before too long will use copious amounts of OSS code. In so doing, you will want to have access to patent protection from the OIN license to support your inevitable adoption of core OSS Code.
You may be surprised to learn that every electronic touch today is powered by Linux and/or Open Source technology, whether or not we realize it. Google. Smart cars. Chromebooks. Android. Streetlights. Social networks. Cloud and data storage. Video conferencing. ATMs. Bitcoin. Amazon. The New York Stock Exchange. There are countless other examples.
If your company believes in collaboration, realizes the new business model for software development and innovation is derived from Open Source, and wants to be protected from the aggressive use of patents, your organization can join other OIN members that wish to publicly demonstrate their commitment and advocacy for both Open Source and patent non–aggression. Your organization will join a community of leading, global companies in the OSS movement.
India does not grant software patents, so why would a company in India need to become a OIN licensee? Similarly, in Europe where software applications receive far greater scrutiny than they do in the U.S. or Asia, and the grant rates are significantly lower, what motivation would a European organization have to become an OIN licensee?
If they are not already doing so, many companies in India and Europe aspire to sell their products and services in other geographies. Many of these regions openly support the grant of software patents and, as a result, the potential for litigation in these regions is significant. Joining Open Invention Network’s community will help to reduce organizations’ exposure to patent risk as they market worldwide. In addition to the core benefits associated with the OIN license, these entities will benefit through publicly demonstrating their commitment to Open Source, and associated patent non-aggression advocacy, which can aid in attracting top software developer talent and contribute to employee retention. OIN is, at its core, promulgating a set of behavioral norms and code of conduct around how one participates as a citizen of the OSS Community. In fact, the OIN license and community participation is central to how an organization innovates and establishes a clear identity in an increasingly OSS-centric world.
This will depend on the specific situation and the structure of the transaction in which your business is acquired. If the acquiring company obtains more than 50 percent of the equity in your company (typically defined as a control position), then the parent acquirer becomes subject to the OIN license and, as such, will receive the license’s benefits and protections.
How do I find out if other companies in my industry or country are already part of the OIN Licensee Community?
As of October 2020, Open Invention Network has 15 industries highlighted on its website and showcases members in each industry. This section of the website is dynamic, with new content and members frequently added. OIN also has a Community Member Listing on the website, which can be sorted by industry or by region.
Our company has indemnity agreement(s) with the software companies we use, so why would we become a member of OIN?
For offsetting intellectual property (IP) risk in today’s complex computing environment, where vendors are systems integrators of layered technology solutions, indemnities should not be your only protection. Indemnification is an insurance like product and therefore is designed to limit a vendor’s liability. As constructed in today’s software market, indemnities may limit a vendor’s total liability to a certain monetary amount, are limited in the timeframes that are covered and are limited in the software that is covered. More specifically, indemnities may only cover vendor-branded software, and third-party, Open Source software that you use may not be covered by the indemnity. Further, indemnities often exclude any combinations with the products or software of others.. You are relying on a third-party to protect you, instead of taking proactive and direct steps to minimize your risk profile.
Rather than rely solely on indemnification, it is prudent to be proactive and take advantage of OIN’s free license and, in so doing, participate in the largest patent non-aggression community in history. With more than 3,700 of the most sophisticated patent-rich companies in the world already OIN members, you will be in good company.
Most IP Directors who take the time to understand the degree to which open source software is relevant to their company’s current or prospective products, learn of OIN and then review the OIN license become members of the OIN community. In general, the only companies that go through the above described process and make an explicit decision to not sign the OIN license are those that wish to reserve the right to sue on patents that read on core Linux and open source software functionality.