Microsoft Wants to Make Peace with the Open Source Community

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Credits: Mark Gordon via Wikipedia

Microsoft announced that it is joining the Open Invention Network(OIN), allowing the community to openly use their 60,000 patented Linux technologies. Microsoft has historically been known for filing lawsuits against any company who tried to use any Linux software patented by Microsoft.

Microsoft has been working to improve its reputation within Silicon Valley as of late and has realized how vital open sourcing Linux products would be to help the industry grow. This shift started with theacquisition of LinkedInby Microsoft and the addition ofLinkedIn’s founder, Reid Hoffman to their board of directors. Prior to making these moves, Microsoft had found itself in questionable social standing with the rest of the tech community.

The company tended to avoid making important social connections, a grave mistake in an environment where many business deals occur over dinner, drinks and other social gatherings. By joining the OIN, they solidified their newfound position as a team player and are making strides toward repairing their reputation among their colleagues and fellow tech companies.

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Since it’s conception in 2005, the OIN has been a “patent non-aggression community” with over 2500 partners who agree not to file lawsuits against each other for any patents held by members. Essentially, this means that when a company joins, they are saying that their patents are free for the members of the network to use without fear of a claim. The goal is to ensure everyone has access to the best possible programs for his or her needs, regardless of patents.

Although Microsoft is joining the Open Invention Network, it is not licensing all of their patents and they do not plan to open source any new codes. However, they are authorizing the use of all 60,000 Linux patents in their possession. Likewise, Microsoft is not transferring ownershipof any patents they already hold, including Linux-based ones, to OIN. They are simply authorizing their use for any other members of the group. By joining the network, Microsoft is giving each member permission to use Linux tech in their operations without needing to worry about any for of litigation.

Eric Anderson, Corporate Vice President, Deputy General Counsel at Microsoft, announced the decision onthe company’s blog. He said, “At Microsoft, we take it as a given that developers do not want a binary choice between Windows vs. Linux or .NET vs Java – they want cloud platforms to support all technologies. They want to deploy technologies at the edge – on any device – that meet customer needs. We also learned that collaborative development through the open source process can accelerate innovation.” Clearly, Microsoft understands the importance of better technology for the greater good and is ready and willing to work alongside their competition and share in the opportunities their Linux based products offer.

This move, as well as other efforts made by Microsoft, is part of a broader movement to steer the software industry away from legal action and costly patent protection lawsuits. Open source technologies have become important in the technology space and are now crucial for software system operations for companies across the board.

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, said when speaking about the long legal battles associated with patent law, “you wonder who’s really benefiting there and it seems like neither one,”.. Now being part of the open-software development, Microsoft and other companies in OIN will get a more diverse perspective, helping the more of the overall industry acquire the best software to date.