Canonical Becomes First Associate Member of the Open Invention Network

Jun 25, 2010

Canonical's role in both the desktop and embedded environments the primary reasons behind selection.

Canonical became the inaugural entrant in the Open Invention Network's Associate Member program Tuesday. While the company that created Ubuntu Linux has been a Licensee for the OIN for sometime, the move to Associate Member is a logical one. The OIN's site describes an Associate Member as such:

"Associate Members are recruited from Linux-related companies, including those that are leaders in advancing Linux's migration into emerging growth markets. Associate Members make a commitment to the Linux Community by virtue of their commitments to and membership in OIN and help to ensure that patent issues do not impair Linux's growth."

What this means in terms of patent obligations and membership requirements is unclear. A problem NoSoftwarePatents founder Florian Mueller says is indicative of the OIN as a whole.

"The Canonical announcement once again shows the absolutely unacceptable degree of intransparency with which the Open Invention Network operates. Both the press release and the OIN's website fail to specify what exactly the rights and obligations of OIN Associate Members -- as compared to mere licensees -- are."

OIN CEO Keith Bergelt sees things differently. According to Bergelt, the OIN was founded out of community necessity by the founding companies.

"If it's not broadcast so that everybody is aware of everything we do, somehow there's this alternate agenda, which I think is unfortunate," Bergelt said.

The OIN uses patents to influence collaboration within the Linux community. Patents under the OIN are royalty-free to any company, as long as they agree not to leverage any of the patents against Linux. The six founding members of the OIN are IBM, NEC, Novell, Philips, Red Hat and Sony.

Bergelt said Canonical was selected for Associate Member status because of the company's positioning in both mobile Linux and the Linux desktop. Associate Members are subject to a financial commitment, which Bergelt described as being less than a founding member, but more than a Licensee, who can join the OIN for free.

"[Associate members] have a higher level of positioning within OIN and the ability to influence the direction of our acquisitions and heighten our awareness of critical applications and really the roadmaps for mobile Linux and the Linux desktop," Bergelt said.

Canonical could not be reached for comment.

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