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Heavyweights form free Linux software house

Antony Savvas

Major IT suppliers have formed a new company to share legally safe Linux-based technologies with anyone that wants them without any charge.

IBM, Sony, Philips, Red Hat and Novell have formed the Open Invention Network (OIN). The company aims to protect developers and users from legal action as a result of using patented technology to support new Linux-based solutions.

Until now, many users have been wary about using Linux for fear that its open-source development could have relied on other companies’ patented technology without their permission, leaving them vulnerable to legal action.

Their concern has been fuelled by the ongoing round of legal action taken by SCO against IBM, Novell and other companies, over alleged patent infringements to its own software, in relation to the development of Linux and those companies’ distribution of it.
 
OIN is now in the process of acquiring patents on technology that can be used to provide legally secure Linux-based solutions to users in the future.

Those seeking licences for this free technology must first agree not to take legal action, using their own patents, against Linux users and others who license OIN solutions.

Novell has already donated a set of electronic commerce patents to the body, which can now be freely distributed to developers and other users.

OIN is headed by chief executive officer Jerry Rosenthal, a former IBM vice president of intellectual property.

Rosenthal said the new body’s main aim was to widen the Linux user base. IBM is a major Linux backer, but Red Hat and Novell, through its Suse Linux subsidiary, are the two leading Linux distributors.


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