In a move that might surprise a few people, Microsoft announced yesterday that it's joining Open Innovation Network (OIN) - an open source patent consortium - and making its entire portfolio of patents open source. Ranging from independent developers to mammoth corporations, the coalition is a collection of companies and individuals who have agreed to offer their patents for use by the "Linux System".
'Joining OIN reflects Microsoft's patent practice evolving in lock-step with the company's views on Linux and open source more generally.
"We know Microsoft's decision to join OIN may be viewed as surprising to some, as it is no secret that there has been friction in the past between Microsoft and the open source community over the issue of patents", wrote Erich Andersen, corporate vice president and deputy general counsel at Microsoft, in a blog post Wednesday. Now, this move should help quell those looking to the company to make good on its claims as an ally to the Linux community. 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. Through its participation in OIN, Microsoft is explicitly acknowledging the importance of open source software to its future growth. Companies and developers get access to both OIN-owned patents and cross-licenses between other OIN licensees, sans royalty. The company's past tussle with open source community isn't hidden from anyone, and its gesture surely seems like an effort to save open source projects from IP lawsuits.
This is everything Microsoft has, and it covers everything related to older open-source technologies such as Android, the Linux kernel, and OpenStack; newer technologies such as LF Energy and HyperLedger, and their predecessor and successor versions. In 2016, the company even became a member of the Linux Foundation.