Microsoft Open Sources Over 60,000 Patents to Protect Linux

We are well aware that Microsoft is interested to help the open-source community now more than ever. It has open sourced several of its projects such as .Net Core, VS Code, PowerShell, MS-DOS and a number of AI frameworks and libraries.

But, its latest decision is a big deal for the users, developers and the companies associated with Linux.

Microsoft’s Corporate VP – Erich Andersen – announced in a blog post that they would be bringing their portfolio of over 60,000 issued patents to Open Invention Network (OIN).

Open Invention Network (OIN) is a community backed by a lot of big companies like IBM, Google, Sony, etc. to protect Linux and associated open-source projects from patent lawsuits.

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In the blog post, Erich mentioned how OIN is helping protect Linux:

Since its founding in 2005, OIN has been at the forefront of helping companies manage patent risks. In the years before the founding of OIN, many open source licenses explicitly covered only copyright interests and were silent about patents. OIN was designed to address this concern by creating a voluntary system of patent cross-licenses between member companies covering Linux System technologies. OIN has also been active in acquiring patents at times to help defend the community and to provide education and advice about the intersection of open source and intellectual property. Today, through the stewardship of its CEO Keith Bergelt and its Board of Directors, the organization provides a license platform for roughly 2,650 companies globally. The licensees range from individual developers and startups to some of the biggest technology companies and patent holders on the planet.

Now, with Microsoft taking such a big step, Erich also mentioned how it would impact the open-source community:

“Now, as we join OIN, we believe Microsoft will be able to do more than ever to help protect Linux and other important open source workloads from patent assertions. We bring a valuable and deep portfolio of over 60,000 issued patents to OIN. We also hope that our decision to join will attract many other companies to OIN, making the license network even stronger for the benefit of the open source community.”

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella quote on open source
Satya Nadella quoted this after buying GitHub for $7.5 billion 

It would be interesting to see how it unfolds because when it comes to money, Microsoft is no one’s friend. Microsoft earns a huge chunk of revenue from patents. It has patents with Android as well that enables it to earn $5-$15 from every Android device sold. I don’t think those 60,000 patents were bringing any revenue to Microsoft. But that just my presumption.

Input from Abhishek: Microsoft has its own selfish interest in this case. This time around it is more about protecting Microsoft and its cloud business on Azure that depends heavily on Linux. Remember Oracle vs Google legal battle over the use of Java in the Android operating system? If Linux ever gets into patent battle and loses it, all the companies using Linux might have to pay billions.  Microsoft surely doesn’t want to be in such a situation and hence it (along with many other big corporations) wants to protect Linux in order to save its own back.

What do you think about the entire episode? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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  • Still VERY skeptikal. Capitalist will always remain capitalists. Don’t see a real benefit for them. Open source licence guarantee/warrant that they are never responsible in any way if your system breaks using their products. Msoft cannot do this. So why taking an interest in those licences and patents?