Back in March of this year, BigBlueButton joined the Open Invention Network.
Here’s what Keith Bergelt, the CEO of OIN had to say:
“We are pleased to have BigBlueButton become an OIN licensee. With over 1300 members in the OIN community, BigBlueButton and other OIN licensees enjoy the support of a growing ecosystem that values freedom of action over patent litigation in Linux and open source technologies. As a community, we have collectively decided to take an active stand against unnecessary patent aggression.”
From the OIN website:
“Open Invention Network is an intellectual property company that was formed to promote Linux by using patents to create a collaborative environment. It promotes a positive, fertile ecosystem for Linux, which in turns drives innovation and choice in the global marketplace. This helps ensure the continuation of innovation that has benefited software vendors, customers, emerging markets and investors.”
With investment from some of the best-known companies in the technology sector, including, Google, IBM, NEC, Philips, Red Hat, Sony, and SUSE, OIN has the backing and resources to succeed. There are many different parts and programs, and three areas are particularly exciting for us at BigBlueButton:
1. The OIN defensive patent pool holds more than 950 global patents and patent applications to discourage legal threats against Linux and Linux-related open source software applications. By signing the OIN license agreement, BigBlueButton gets royalty-free access to this pool and cross licensing of Linux System patents between OIN community members. This includes much of the innovative work from the early days of web conferencing and collaborative groupware created by companies such as Contigo, Raindance and others. BigBlueButton also commits to not asserting patents against the open source community.
The OIN patent pool is especially useful in privateering situations, where a patent troll (with no assets or operations other than patent litigation) is owned by an operating company with products, customers, and an operating business. OIN patents could be asserted against the operations of the parent company or its other subsidiaries, levelling the playing field against a troll.
2. Linux Defenders is a program designed to eliminate poor quality patents and ensure that only high-quality patents issue. It includes a growing library of “defensive publications” and a database of technical documents and other prior art contributions that can be used to inform patent examiners and reviewers. Patents that are obvious or “anticipated” are less likely to be granted, and more likely to be defeated when challenged. An OIN member threated by a patent troll could use Linux Defenders to slow or block new patent applications by the troll.
3. Finally, OIN has a history of getting involved in patent matters that benefit the larger open source community — by addressing weak or overly-broad patents, acquiring critical patents, supporting defensive publications, and investing strategically where broader principles are involved or multiple projects are threatened.
Collectively, these programs foster a positive collaborative environment for open source software and limit the negative effects of patent-based challenges by companies antagonistic to open source innovation.
BigBlueButton stands together with the OIN community to protect open source against threats. For more information about the Open Invention Network, its goals and activities, and how your organization can join, we recommend the OIN website (https://www.openinventionnetwork.com) and an excellent article by Deb Nicholson, the OIN Director of Community Outreach, in the Technology Innovation Management Review.