This week Mozilla joined Open Invention Network as a licensee. OIN is an organization which helps protect the Linux ecosystem by building a variety of defenses against patent attacks. These defenses include both traditional mechanisms, like defensive patent pools, and more innovative approaches, like the Linux Defenders project, which uses a variety of methods to proactively prevent the publication of particularly egregious patents. As a licensee, we’ll have access to OIN resources in case we’re threatened by operating entities with patents, and over time we’ll likely become more involved in providing our own ideas and resources to OIN projects.
Patents owned by Open Invention Network are available royalty-free to any company, institution or individual that agrees not to assert its patents against the Linux System. By joining, Mozilla receives cross-licenses from other OIN licensees, but more importantly, for the long term, it affords us a chance to work with OIN in reducing IP threats to open source development and innovation. This may include a defensive publications program that would make it harder for others to patent work created by Mozilla contributors, sharing defensive tactics, and cooperation to minimize patent threats.
This doesn’t mean we’re suddenly enthused about patents in any way, but OIN is doing some good work, and I believe that any protections that they afford Mozilla are on the whole more positive, and outweigh reservations about the patent the system.