Microsoft just open-sourced 60,000 of its patents

Donna Miller
October 12, 2018

Microsoft has officially joined the Open Innovation Network (OIN) and will share their massive portfolio of patents with the 2,650 members of the community. "It is no secret that there has been friction in the past between Microsoft and the open source community over the issue of patents".

'Joining OIN reflects Microsoft's patent practice evolving in lock-step with the company's views on Linux and open source more generally.

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Microsoft says that the move was a response to customer demands, and the company has positioned the move as the next logical step in its increasing embrace of Linux (Linux is widely used by Azure customers, for example, and the company recently made SQL Server available for Linux in addition to its native Windows). Through its participation in OIN, Microsoft is explicitly acknowledging the importance of open source software to its future growth.

Scott Guthrie, Microsoft's executive vice president of the cloud and enterprise group, said: "We want to protect open source projects from IP lawsuits, so we're opening our patent portfolio to the OIN". Previously, Microsoft had a reputation that lead members of the open source community to believe that the company wasn't exactly doing all it could to make itself accessible and an ally to those within the collective. "The licensees range from individual developers and startups to some of the biggest technology companies and patent holders on the planet". As a result, Android vendors were pressured to ink deals, forcing them to pay royalties to Microsoft.In 2001, Microsoft's previous CEO Steve Ballmer also famously derided Linux as a "cancer" on intellectual property. Back in 2013, Samsung reportedly paid Microsoft $1 billion in patent-licensing over its use of Android. By pledging these patents to the group, Android OEM members of the pool should have that same royalty-free access to the relevant patents, which cover Linux and Android-related technologies.

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