Google Opens Up Some Patents to Open-Source Projects, Vows Not to Sue

Posted on March 29, 2013 9:30 AM by Rob Williams

Here’s something we don’t see everyday: Google has pledged not to sue open source projects or its users if they make use of patents the company opens up to the public. Seems crazy, right? Well, it should come as no surprise that Google, like many businesses, rely on open source software in one way or another. The fact that open source software exists at all can even improve closed source software because at the end of the day, competition is competition.

Google Don't Be Evil

With its “Open Patent Non-Assertion” (OPN) pledge, Google won’t sue “unless first attacked”. What does that mean, exactly? It means Google will play it cool while you use its patents, but if you dare to try fight against it using claims that it’s making use of something that resembles a patent you own, then the gloves are off.

This move by Google is definitely a good one, although we’ll see just how useful it is later, as the company begins to roll out more and more patents that it approves of you using. It’s the company’s hope that other companies will jump on board as well, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next little while.

  • e550mercedes

    It’s nothing but a stunt on Google’s part:

    After what they did to SkyHook I don’t trust one single word they say:

    • Rob Williams

      It feels like a stunt to me also, but one that can still help more than it hurts.

    • Marfig

      Incidentally all ten patents are related to MapReduce, their parallel programming model which Google no doubt would like to see widely spread. It really just seems like a way to facilitate the distribution of a key Google technology and not a real anti patent-war pledge. Not impressed. Google won’t be fooling anyone.

      • Rob Williams

        You don’t know the masses too well!

        • Marfig

          Well, true indeed. The move is aimed at developers who will see the poisoned apple a mile away. If we get on the Google boat and start developing our own parallel computing solutions based (or even so much having a resemblance) with the MapReduce patents, we won’t be able to sue Google if they start using our own patents in turn, unless we have more money for lawyers than they do. Google could in fact use this as a way to grab on patented technology that doesn’t belong to it.

          But indeed, for anyone else, whose Google are the guys that give them a search engine and Google Docs, they may look at this as just Google being cool.

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