In a show of good faith towards the open source community, Google has just announced its Open Patent Non-Assertion (OPN) Pledge. Included in this agreement is the company’s promise not to sue developers, distributors, or users of open source software utilizing its patents, “unless first attacked”.
Google claims that the reason for acquiring patents for open-source developments in the first place is mainly defensive, hence the decision to adopt a tit-for-tat approach to suing in order to keep the technology available for those who don’t abuse it.
Duane Valz, Google’s senior patent counsel, gave some insight into the reasoning behind the OPN Pledge, stating:
“Open-source software has been at the root of many innovations in cloud computing, the mobile web, and the Internet generally. We remain committed to an open Internet — one that protects real innovation and continues to deliver great products and services.”
However Google isn’t sticking its entire patent collection up for use, the pledge is starting off quite small. Only ten patents so far are included in the pledge, which related to Google’s MapReduce programming model. However the number of Google owned patents which fall under the pledge is set to increase over time.
Google also hopes that the OPN pledge will serve as a model for the rest of the industry, which with any luck will encourage other companies to open up their patents in a bid to foster an environment of trust among developers and to drive technology forwards.
As a big fan of all things open-source Google scores big points in my book for this one.