A new Open Source Development Labs site helps open-source users and companies deal with patent issues.
The Open Source Development Labs announced Tuesday the launch of an online patent commons reference library, the Patent Commons Project.
OSDL had called earlier this year for the creation of the Patent Commons Project. Now, about 90 days later, it has arrived.
The new site hosts searchable databases containing more than 500 patents pledged to date and more than a dozen technical standards supported by patent pledges and covenants. The library is freely available. Anyone can use it to view information about open-source-friendly patents and technology pledges.
The Patent Commons Web site will catalog existing patent commitments from companies and individuals who wish to retain ownership of their patents, and will provide information about different types of pledges and covenants and how they work.
"The OSDL Patent Commons Project is an important first step in helping customers, vendors and the development community understand the different commitments that have been made and how they work to reduce the chances of patent litigation," said Stuart Cohen, the OSDLs CEO, in a statement.
The Patent Commons Project has the support of many industry leaders, including CA, IBM, Intel Corp., Novell Inc., Red Hat Inc. and Sun Microsystems Inc. The OSDL also welcomes other IT vendors, corporations, organizations, government agencies and individuals to join in its efforts.
"OSDL provides a natural point of entry to the commons. We are confident that the project will serve the needs of developers and customers by providing fair, objective and easily accessible information about the burgeoning commons," said Jim Stallings, IBMs intellectual property and standards vice president.
An IBM representative added that IBM sees the commons as being complementary to the newly founded Open Invention Network. The OINs purpose is to acquire Linux-related patents and share them royalty-free to any organization that agrees not to assert its patents against Linux or its applications.
Diane Peters, the OSDLs general counsel, explained that the Patents Common is meant to be friendly and informative to the entire open-source community.
"The site explains the basics of patent pledges and commitments in a simple way for non-lawyers," she said. At the same time, "it also includes links to the actual legal documents and outbound links to the patents at the U.S. PTO [Patent and Trademark Office]," said Peters in an eWEEK.com interview.
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The Patent Commons Project also explains the differences between the two main types of open-source patent commitments that have come out so far.
On the one hand, Peters explained, "there are commitments like the IBM 500 patents. Here, the patents use is very broad. The only requirement is that they be used in open-source programs."
On the other hand, theres Suns OpenSolaris patent pledges. Here, the patents use is restricted to a particular open-source implementation or standard.
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Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols is editor at large for Ziff Davis Enterprise. Prior to becoming a technology journalist, Vaughan-Nichols worked at NASA and the Department of Defense on numerous major technological projects. Since then, he's focused on covering the technology and business issues that make a real difference to the people in the industry.