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August 18th, 2016

Open Invention Network Helps Rid FOSS of Patent Lawsuits

Software patent issues aren’t in the news as much now as they were only a few years back, partly due to the Supreme Court’s 2014 Alice v. CLS decision. Another reason is the patent pool the Open Invention Network has amassed to discourage patent trolls.

The FOSS Force Video Interview

The Open Invention Network — OIN, as its friends call it — “is a defensive patent pool and community of patent non-aggression which enables freedom of action in Linux.” That’s what it says (among other things) on the front page of the organization’s website. Basically, if you join OIN (which costs $0) you agree not to sue other members over Linux and Android-related patents, and in return they promise not to sue you. Google, IBM, and NEC are the top three members shown on OIN’s “community” page, which lists over 2,000 members/licensees ranging from Ford to one-person Android app developers.

Today’s interviewee, Deb Nicholson, is the group’s community outreach director. One description of her says she “blurs the line between professional and punk rock,” which is a very cool line to blur. She travels a lot and speaks at a lot of conferences.

She used to work for the Free Software Foundation. You may have heard of them. It is less likely, however, that you know about OIN. But you should, because it does hugely valuable work in keeping the slimy jaws of patent trolls away from innocent FOSS developers and users. If you’re an OIN member and a nasty software patent beast comes after you, they risk the wrath of… well, not “The Wrath of Khan,” but of running afoul of one of the many thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands, of patents held by OIN’s many members.

Robin "Roblimo" Miller is a freelance writer and former editor-in-chief at Open Source Technology Group, the company that owned SourceForge, freshmeat, Linux.com, NewsForge, ThinkGeek and Slashdot, and until recently served as a video editor at Slashdot. Now he's mostly retired, but still works part-time as an editorial consultant for Grid Dynamics, and (obviously) writes for FOSS Force.

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