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OSDL plans software patent commons

Sep 15, 2005 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive

The OSDL plans to create a legal entity to administer patents pledged to the open source community, as well as patents held or pending on behalf of the open source community. The OSDL's “patent commons project” is still being planned, but aims to encourage and facilitate patent pledges.

The OSDL says the amount of intellectual property pledged to the open source community is growing, led by companies such as IBM, Nokia, Novell, Red Hat, and Sun Microsystems. Meanwhile, other entities have held back due to “administrative and logistical challenges,” the OSDL says — barriers it hopes its patent commons will remove.

The OSDL says that by contributing patents to its planned patent commons project, patent holders “[could] be assured that the right to enforce the patents [would be] administered by an organization dedicated to accelerating the development and use of open source software. Developers [could] be assured that those patents [would] not be enforced against them on open source software.”

According to the OSDL, the patent commons project will comprise:

  • A library and database that aggregates patent pledges made by companies. The library will also aggregate other legal solutions, such as indemnification programs offered by vendors of open source software.
  • A collection of software patent licenses and software patents (issued and pending) held for the benefit of the open source community

OSDL CEO Stuart Cohen said, “The project is designed to increase the utility and value of patent pledges and promises in the past year by providing a central repository where intellectual property can be held for the benefit of all. Our goal is to make it easier for developers and industry to take advantage of the good works of vendors, individuals, and organizations who may wish to pledge patents and intellectual property in support of the community.”

Linux creator and software patent remonstrator Linus Torvalds said, “Software patents are a huge potential threat to the ability of people to work together on open source. Making it easier for companies and communities that have patents to make those patents available in a common pool for people to use is one way to try to help developers deal with the threat.”

Eben Moglen, chair of the Software Freedom Law Center, said, “No matter what your stand on software patents, and I oppose them, I call on developers to contribute to the OSDL patent commons project because there is strength in numbers and when individual contributions are collected together it creates a protective haven where developers can innovate without fear.”

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