Google’s Takes ‘OPN Pledge’ to Protect Open Source and Patents

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Following in the footsteps of Open Source pioneers IBM and Red Hat, Google has taken a giant leap forward in preserving the purity of Open Source and Patents in the world of technology.  In a recent blog post on Google’s “Open Source Blog”, Senior Patent Counsel, Duane Valz, makes a less-than-obvious attack on patent and money hungry technology companies (like the one named after that one fruit that Eve took a bite out of that started this whole mess).  He states the importance of protecting this purity to ensure continued innovation in the world of computer software, and continued advancement in cloud computing, the mobile web, and the internet in general.

Today, Google announced its “Open Patent Non-Assertion (OPN) Pledge“.  In it they pledge “NOT to sue any user, distributor or developer of open-source software on specified patents…unless first attacked.”  Gotta love that last part!  Google, in their infinite wisdom, has included an Apple escape clause (Oops!  Just came right out and said it that time).

At this point Google has only identified 10 patents relating to MapReduce in their initial pledge list, but vow to expand on that list, adding “past, present or future” open-source software that might rely on pledge patents.  Good for you Google!

Google, a member of the Open Invention Network, hopes to complement their efforts on cooperative licensing with this new pledge.  They are working with “like-minded” companies to develop patent agreements that would cut down on lawsuits.

They claim that they will “continue to support patent reforms that would improve patent quality and reduce excessive litigation“.  The ultimate goal is to reduce the number of companies “required to defensively acquire ever more patents“, and to remain committed to an open internet.  The pledge includes, but is not limited to upholding the following ideals:

  • Transparency. Patent holders determine exactly which patents and related technologies they wish to pledge, offering developers and the public transparency around patent rights.
  • Breadth. Protections under the OPN Pledge are not confined to a specific project or open- source copyright license. (Google contributes a lot of code under such licenses, like the Apache or GNU GPL licenses, but their patent protections are limited.) The OPN Pledge, by contrast, applies to any open-source software—past, present or future—that might rely on the pledged patents.
  • Defensive protection. The Pledge may be terminated, but only if a party brings a patent suit against Google products or services, or is directly profiting from such litigation.
  • Durability. The Pledge remains in force for the life of the patents, even if we transfer them.

With this new OPN Pledge Google hopes to mentor other companies to “put their own patents into the service of open-source software” which they believe will “continue to enable amazing innovation“.

Source: Google Open Source Blog