In a move that might surprise a few people, Microsoft announced yesterday that it’s joining Open Invention Network (OIN) – an open source patent consortium – and making its entire portfolio of patents open source. Microsoft will add nearly 60,000 patents to OIN, vastly enlarging its existing pool of 1,300 global patents.
In the past few years, the Redmond-based company made nearly $3.4 billion in royalties from its Android-related patents. This resulted in frequent clashes with the Android community and others but Microsoft is intent on leaving that behind. The company’s corporate VP Erich Anderson said in a blog:
We know Microsoft’s decision to join OIN may be viewed as surprising to some; it is no secret that there has been friction in the past between Microsoft and the open source community over the issue of patents. For others who have followed our evolution, we hope this announcement will be viewed as the next logical step for a company that is listening to customers and developers and is firmly committed to Linux and other open source programs.
OIN’s chief mission is to protect Linux from patent lawsuits by having members like Google, RedHat, IBM, and now, Microsoft. The group’s CEO Keith said that apart from older Linux Kernel and Android patents, Microsoft‘s patent library also includes upcoming technologies like LF Energy (an open source initiative for power sector) and HyperLedger (an open source blockchain initiative).
However, the company is not making patents such as Windows’ desktop and desktop application code open source. Microsoft‘s VP of cloud Scott Guthrie said that the company wants to protect open source projects from IP lawsuits.
Last year, Microsoft announced Azure Advantage IP program to protect its cloud users against lawsuits. And a few days ago, it joined an anti-patent troll group LOT, which has more than 300 members onboard.
Microsoft is paying a lot of attention towards the open source community, with GitHub’s acquisition this year being its most notable move.