TomTom has become a licensee of the Open Invention Network. The OIN was initially formed by Red Hat, IBM and others to protect Linux by being a clearing house for over 275 patents and patent applications. These are available, on a royalty free basis, to any member licensee. Members must agree not to use their own patent portfolio against Linux. Companies can also contribute their patents to the OIN to make them generally available. OIN is also one of the backers of Linux Defenders. It appears the recent Microsoft patent agitation against Tom Tom is the reason behind this move.
TomTom Joins Open Invention Network
2009-03-23 Linux 4 Comments
Too bad they had to wait to have Microsoft on their shoulders to realize the move to OIN would help them somehow. Will there be others following suit?
It will be interesting how the suits move on after this.
The FAT32 patent affects almost any Linux device that uses external flash storage. It’s a stupid patent – an ugly hack to support long file names while keeping compatability with old software. But it has been contested and upheld in court. This is a clear case where OIN should retaliate in case Microsoft continues with the ligitation because many of it’s members will be affected.
OIN and the Patent Commons are similar in that, if a company joins, they get access to a large group of patents, which they can then utilise in their own products royalty-free, all for the low, low price of promising not to sue free software. The member companies of Patent Commons and OIN all get access to other members patents. The resulting patent pool is a fair defensive pool against patent attacks by non-members against any member. The sum is greater than the parts, as they say.
That is a good deal. Microsoft shareholders should be pushing Microsoft to join, because it would be a move to get good value out of Microsoft’s own IP. Everybody wins … except lawyers who don’t get paid.
Joining the OIN and the Patent Commons, for example, is one way Microsoft can get value out of its own patents, and enjoy the benefits of patents that Tom Tom holds, without having to sue Tom Tom or pay any lawyers.
The OIN is slightly different to the Patent Commons in that the OIN actively attains patents, whereas AFAIK the Patent Commons relies entirely on patents donated by member companies.
There are a good number of members already in both of these organisations:
Edited 2009-03-23 22:27 UTC
The following article on this topic is interesting if only for the reader comments at the end.
The article does indicate that this action by Tom Tom is able to bring to bear in the case the resources of Linux Defenders, the Software Freedom Law Center and the Linux Foundation.
Now it gets serious.