LINUXWORLD SF: OSDL announces Patent Commons project

The Open Source Development Labs (OSDL), a global group dedicated to promoting Linux, on Tuesday announced a new initiative, called Patent Commons, to collect the software licenses and patents pledged to the open source community into a central repository to make them easier to access by developers, and encourage more patent holders to pledge their intellectual property to the cause.

The move will increase the utility of the growing number of patent pledges and promises in the past year by providing a central location for open-source software developers, OSDL said. It will also reduce the threat of patent-related lawsuits, it said.

The move will also encourage more companies and individuals to pledge their intellectual property (IP) to the open-source community by reducing the administrative headaches posed by granting individual licenses, which the OSDL said is a barrier to the formal licensing of patents.

The OSDL hopes the measure will help encourage more companies to pledge their IP to the open source community, a group that includes IBM Corp., Nokia Corp., Novell Inc., Red Hat Inc., and Sun Microsystems Inc.

Vendors like these that pledge their patents to the Patent Commons project are, in general, promising not to file lawsuits against developers or users. At the same time, patent holders will be assured that the right to enforce the patents is watched over by an organization dedicated to open-source software, OSDL said.

The group said software patents are a huge potential threat to the ability of people to work together on open source.

The OSDL Patent Commons project will initially work on a library and database to house software patent licenses and patents, as well as patent pledges made by companies. It will also collect other legal items, like indemnification programs offered by vendors of open-source software, the group said.

The Patent Commons project is still in the planning stages, the OSDL said, adding it expects to announce more details in coming months.

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