As discussed here many times, grass roots movements such as the Internet and Linux are hard to stop. However, one of the impediments to very fast adoption of Linux as compared to just the fast adoption that is taking place has been the underlying threat of legal action to a user or vendor of Linux by a patent holder.
That threat is about to be dealt a big blow as IBM, Sony and Philips have joined forces with Novell and Red Hat to form a new company called The Open Invention Network (OIN).
The concept is simple, but potentially brilliant. OIN, using the funding provided by the founding companies, will purchase Linux related patents in the open market. It will then offer them on a royalty free basis to any individual or company member that agrees not to sue the other members. OIN is starting out with a set of electronic commerce patents that were purchased from business-to-business (B2B) software pioneer Commerce One. More purchases will follow and likely the purchases will spur even more innovation for systems and applications that leverage Linux.
OIN will have no income since it will seek no royalties from it’s patent portfolio, so how do the founders make a return on their investment in OIN? Through the accelerated adoption of Linux which in turn opens the door for more sales of hardware, sofware, and services. Much of the IT industry and it’s customers will embrace the OIN move — with the exception of Microsoft which has argued that relying on "open source" software poses legal risks. Market researcher IDC estimates that the worldwide Linux business will grow 25.9 percent annually, doubling from $20 billion this year to more than $40 billion by 2008. If OIN is successful the growth rate could be even higher.