Over recent years, Microsoft has embraced open source. At first many thought it was disingenuous support, but since then Microsoft has shown a commitment to open source solutions. Now, the company has announced it is a part of the Open Invention Network (OIN).
OIN is an open-source patent consortium that has 2,650 members with over 1,300 global patents. With Microsoft coming on board, that number of patents will increase significantly. In joining the network, Microsoft is open sourcing its patent portfolio for other members of the Open Invention Network to use.
Other members include Google, SUSE, and IBM. Keith Bergelt, CEO of the consortium welcomed Microsoft's contribution:
“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 LF Energy and HyperLedger, and their predecessor and successor versions.”
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.”
Microsoft is drastically increasing the number of patents on OIN by adding 60,000 of its own patents. While this may seem trivial, the company is essentially waving goodbye to money. The company makes billions from global patents. Anderson says the company understands this, but times are changing.
“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.”
Speaking to ZDNet, Scott Guthrie, Microsoft's executive vice president of the cloud and enterprise group, says Microsoft is changing its culture.
“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.”
Earlier this month, Microsoft announced it is joining the LOT Network, a nonprofit to defend companies from patent trolls. There are 300 members of the network who protect 1.35 million patents. Among the other members of the network are Amazon, Lyft, Cisco, Lenovo, Oracle, SAP, and Red Hat Google.
“Microsoft has seen this problem firsthand. We've faced hundreds of meritless patent assertions and lawsuits over the years, and we want to do more to help others dealing with this issue,” Microsoft explains.