Open Invention Network is the largest patent non-aggression community in history. Today, we speak with Mr. Keith Bergelt, CEO of Open Invention Network.
Q: Hi Keith, the last time we spoke, Open Invention Network was experiencing significant growth, how many community members do you have?
A: I’m very pleased to speak with you again. Open Invention Network (OIN) continues to be the largest patent non-aggression community in history. Our community has just surpassed 3,000 organizational participants. The community base is comprised of startups to a veritable “who’s who” of technology and business leaders, with both projects and corporations participating.
Fairly recently, we have added companies across a spectrum of industries and geographic regions. They include Microsoft, Alibaba, Tencent, Costco, Caterpillar, Heidelberg, Johnson Controls and Tyco International, Medtronic and Infosys, among many others.
Our value is derived from OIN’s royalty-free cross license that enables patent peace in core technologies and supports innovation in Linux and other particularly important open source projects. Every community member receives royalty-free access to the Linux System patents of the 3,000 other licensees. OIN’s community members in aggregate own more than two million worldwide patents and applications.
Additionally, by leveraging a portfolio of more than 1,300 strategic global patents and applications, OIN provides a defensive deterrent to patent aggression in the core. While our patent portfolio is of considerable value – on the order of hundreds of millions of dollars – any person or company can gain access to OIN’s patents for free, so long as they agree to cross-license their Linux-related patents to all other OIN licensees and refrain from litigating such patents.
Q: Given the amount of licensing in various industries, how does OIN’s 3,000 licensee milestone compare?
A: There have been numerous instances in history where an invention might be licensed to several hundred businesses to enable them to build and sell a product outright, or build and sell a component that will be used in a finished product. Some of these licensing deals have generated significant sums of money for the licensor.
Our founding Members – IBM, NEC, Novell, Philips, Red Hat and Sony – were true visionaries in that they pledged patents and financing to get the OIN community started. In the last few years, we have been further bolstered by Google and Toyota joining as Members.
Open Invention Network is an organization that has disrupted classic licensing models in its intent and its practices. The intent was to provide a means of building and protecting a community of businesses and organizations that understand the value of shared innovation. To have the community members agree to share the innovation in the core building blocks, freeing them to focus the majority of their energies and resources on higher-order technologies.
This of course is the largest benefit derived from Linux and other open source projects: building a set of core, shared technologies where innovation can occur rapidly. Linux and other OSS platforms have been the catalysts of unparalleled changes in the financial services, automotive, communications and entertainment industries, among many others.
This really is unprecedented. For OIN to have a community of 3,000 global businesses, across a spectrum of industries, that have agreed to practice patent non-aggression is both humbling and amazing.
In practice, we have also been disruptive because our licensing model is royalty-free. We also have our own portfolio of 1,300 patents that can be used as a deterrent should organizations look to impair our community’s progress through patent aggression.
There really is no analog to OIN in history.
Q: OIN has stated that it is focused on four key vertical industries, is that still true?
A: We are focused on all industries given that all industries are increasingly using open source software.
However, if you mean four technological areas or verticals, then yes. OIN is focused on ensuring a level playing field for all major open source and Linux projects, but we continue to see IoT, blockchain, intelligent automotive platforms and network function virtualization (NFV) as increasingly strategic areas where Linux and open source software have become critical and foundational technologies. Through our continued deterrence against patent aggressors and community growth initiatives, we look to ensure a fair playing field for open source technologies like OPNFV/ONAP through the LF Networking Fund, Automotive Grade Linux, the Open Container Initiative and Hyperledger. Our overarching goal is to ensure continued collaboration and innovation in these technologies, ultimately strengthening the marketplace through the unhindered development and sale of the best products and services.
Q: What are the next big milestones for OIN?
A: We have a number of key initiatives that we will continue to support while keeping an eye on potential intellectual property issues that bad actors might look to exploit. We are very focused on ensuring that key Linux and open sourc-based projects continue to grow and thrive in a patent-aggression free environment. We also want to understand the emerging technologies that will be relevant several years from now, that might not be on many people’s radar at this moment in time. In this case, we acquire what we believe will be strategic patents, in order to keep our portfolio fresh, relevant effective and of value to our community. We will continue to partner with innovative intellectual property organizations like the LOT Network. Finally, we will continue participating in shaping the ways that intellectual property laws and litigation are conducted in the U.S. and other countries.
Q: Do you have any final thoughts you would like to share?
A: OIN exists due to the leadership of Google, IBM, NEC, Philips, Red Hat, Sony, SUSE and Toyota, which recognize the ubiquity and significant value of software and the shift to collaborative, project-based innovation that open source software development represents. In order for the creativity and inventive capacities of the hundreds of thousands of people developing around open source projects and platforms to be realized, it’s vital that patent non-aggression in the core is safeguarded. Companies, organizations, and individuals seeking to support patent non-aggression, regardless of the industry, should join our community, and commit to the onward sustainability of the collaborative model of innovation that is central to open source.