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It is a good day for open source when Microsoft agrees to join the Open Invention Network (OIN), a patent non-aggression community for the Linux ecosystem. This positive development follows Microsoft’s decision last week to join us in the LOT Network (LOT). While the LOT announcement was a significant development in the fight to guard against threats posed by patent assertion entities, today’s announcement is pretty big news for open source collaboration.

Created in 2005 by Red Hat, IBM, Novell, NEC, Philips, and Sony, OIN is a one-of-a-kind response to patent threats that might seek to harm the Linux ecosystem. The approach is two-fold. First, OIN establishes a shared defensive patent pool to protect innovation in the Linux environment. Second, OIN creates a royalty-free patent cross-license among its members -- effectively a zone of protected open source technologies where developers can collaborate without fear of patent claims by OIN’s participants. Over time, this patent-free zone has grown from some core Linux packages to a broader group of open source technologies. The result is an expanding innovation zone cross-licensed under patents from OIN and many large patent-holding companies, such as AT&T, Canon, Cisco, Facebook, Google, IBM, Sony, and Toyota, all to foster greater open source collaboration and adoption.

With over 85,000 patents, Microsoft is a positive addition to OIN’s almost 2,700 members, which together hold over 2.2 million patents. This is 2.2 million patents that can never be asserted offensively against another active OIN member in good standing in connection with the use, development, or distribution of open source software within the OIN zone of protected open source technologies.

By joining OIN, Microsoft is lending support to the open source development and distribution model endemic to the Linux ecosystem. The move reflects the reality that the open source model is and has been a powerful wave in the IT industry and a foundation of cloud computing. An increasing number of companies in many industries ranging from automobiles to banks to consumer products are now contributing to, distributing and using open source software within their enterprises and product portfolios.

We have had the good fortune to partner with Microsoft over the last three years on several commercial initiatives to support our mutual customers. We hope Red Hat and Microsoft will continue to collaborate to provide innovative product offerings using open source software in an environment that is increasingly safe for developers, distributors, and consumers. Red Hat is committed to OIN’s mission and to broadening its reach by adding new partners like Microsoft. We look forward to working with them to secure and expand the Linux ecosystem.

Come join us in the Open Invention Network!

About the author

Red Hat is the world’s leading provider of enterprise open source software solutions, using a community-powered approach to deliver reliable and high-performing Linux, hybrid cloud, container, and Kubernetes technologies.

Red Hat helps customers integrate new and existing IT applications, develop cloud-native applications, standardize on our industry-leading operating system, and automate, secure, and manage complex environments. Award-winning support, training, and consulting services make Red Hat a trusted adviser to the Fortune 500. As a strategic partner to cloud providers, system integrators, application vendors, customers, and open source communities, Red Hat can help organizations prepare for the digital future.

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