Linux backers to buy software patents

10 November 2005 Five large technology companies are joining forces to acquire patents related to open source operating system Linux, in an effort to sustain demand amid the threat of licensing charges.

IBM, Sony and Philips will join Linux distributors Novell and Red Hat to create the Open Invention Network (OIN), a non-profit organisation tasked with acquiring Linux related patents.

The founders hope that OIN will be able to protect users and vendors from intellectual property rights disputes through buying Linux patents and licensing them without charge.

The initial software rights in OIN’s pool will be a collection of patents purchased by a Novell subsidiary for $15.5 million from the bankrupt dot-com vendor Commerce One, auctioned in December 2004.

The popularity of the Linux operating systems has mushroomed in recent years, but a 2003 lawsuit filed by the SCO Group raised questions over the risk associated with running the software. SCO claimed it owned parts of the software code used in the Linux kernel, and sought to sue both Linux distributors and users. SCO’s case against IBM has yet to be resolved.

According to IT analyst group IDC, Linux sales are expected to double from $20 billion in 2005 to more than $40 billion worldwide by 2008. But this growth could be even greater should end user concerns be allayed.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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