The company has announced that it has joined the Open Invention Network (OIN), a community that is dedicated to protecting open- source software from patent lawsuits by technology giants like Google, IBM, and, yep, even Microsoft. The move by Microsoft is a surprising one since the company has always had a contentious relationship with the open-source community, something Erich Andersen, corporate VP and deputy general counsel, conceded in a blog post:
We know Microsoft’s decision to join OIN may be viewed as surprising to some; it is no secret that there has been friction in the past between Microsoft and the open source community over the issue of patents. For others who have followed our evolution, we hope this announcement will be viewed as the next logical step for a company that is listening to customers and developers and is firmly committed to Linux and other open source programs.
But Andersen goes on to say that Microsoft’s view of the open-source community has shifted:
Joining OIN reflects Microsoft’s patent practice evolving in lock-step with the company’s views on Linux and open source more generally . . . At Microsoft, we take it as a given that developers do not want a binary choice between Windows vs. Linux, or .NET vs. Java–they want cloud platforms to support all technologies. They want to deploy technologies at the edge–on any device–that meet customer needs. We also learned that collaborative development through the open source process can accelerate innovation.
With Microsoft’s contribution of 60,000 patents, the OIN has seen its patent library multiple almost 50 times over. Previously, OIN only had ownership of 1,300 global patents.