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Why the software world needs a 'no-fly zone' for patents

Katherine Noyes | Oct. 6, 2015
Now 10 years old, the Open Invention Network protects more than 2,000 software packages.

"We're the whitest of white hats in this area," said Bergelt, who says he once served as a diplomat. "They'd rather sell to us in many ways because we neutralize the patents -- we're not going to sue. It puts us in a unique position."

When licensee companies are at risk of patent litigation, the OIN will sell them patents as protection if it can. The group once did that for Salesforce.com to protect it against Microsoft, he recounted.

"We expect we'll increase that kind of activity over the next 10 years," Bergelt said. "If you look at emerging areas like the cloud, network management, Hadoop and containers, those are the kinds of companies that will likely be flashpoints, so we need to make sure they're armed."

One of OIN's biggest challenges will be convincing more companies to participate. "It's almost a test of authenticity," Bergelt said. "If you're going to participate in the open source community, it's a prophylactic measure to protect you."

Bergelt likens the OIN to the countless forgotten people who made it possible to settle the Wild West of the United States.

"We're a small part of a very big story, and it's important for us to be egoless," he said. "It's like homesteading in this fertile land. We're the nameless agents who provide guardianship while others do the heavy lifting and risk their livelihoods in this area that is open source."

 

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