29 April 2009

Oi, OIN: What Took So Long?

When the Open Innovation Network announced that TomTom was joining, just after Microsoft accused the latter of infringing patents related to Linux, I was sceptical. After all, the former

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.

Now, I'm all in favour of ecosystems, but it's hard to see how this kind of organisation would help TomTom much. Well, some details are starting to emerge of how OIN aims to fight back against this kind of thing:

Open Invention Network (OIN), a collaborative enterprise that enables innovation in open source and an increasingly vibrant ecosystem around Linux, today announced that U.S. patents 5579517, 5758352 and 6256642 have been placed for prior art review on the Post-Issue Peer-to-Patent website associated with the Linux Defenders portal. These patents were recently cited in litigation that targeted TomTom NV.

OIN's mission includes encouraging the Linux community to review patents-of-interest that may be of suspect quality or riddled by questions regarding prior art. Accordingly, the patents used in the recent TomTom patent action have been posted by OIN for review and submission of prior art by the Linux community. Submissions may be made by visiting http://www.post-issue.org, clicking on the appropriate patent and selecting "Submit Prior Art".

Right, so it seems that OIN won't be doing anything directly, other than getting the relevant patents posted on the Post-Issue Peer-to-Patent website associated with the Linux Defenders portal.

Isn't this a rather roundabout way of doing things? I can't help feeling that this could have been done rather quicker: after all, if it's just a matter of posting the relevant patents for people to examine and poke holes in, why wasn't it done as soon as Microsoft attacked TomTom? Did we really need to wait for TomTom to join OIN, and for the latter to pass the message down the chain a few weeks later?

Perhaps the community needs to think about how this kind of stuff can be done more expeditiously given that patent attacks against open source are likely to increase, and that prior art is a powerful weapon to deploy against them in jurisdictions foolish enough to allow software patents in the first place.


saulgoode said...

Peer-to-Patent does good things for bad reasons. OIN does bad things for good reasons.

It remains to be seen whether this collaborative environment will accomplish good things. I suspect a third enterprise -- one which seeks to do good things for good reasons -- will need to intervene for this to happen.

Glyn Moody said...

Nicely put. I agree, a better solution (alongside abolition) is needed.