The AllSeen Alliance, one of several industry groups working to develop an open framework to make it easier for devices within the Internet of things to communicate with each other, has unveiled a patent policy that's aimed at protecting businesses that use the consortium's code from being sued by those that contribute software to the project.
In a post on the AllSeen blog, Philip DesAutels, senior director of IoT for the consortium, wrote that the alliance, which is 13 months old, sought an intellectual property policy that was simple and would encourage companies to leverage the group's AllJoyn code in their products.
"Device manufacturers and application developers are busy creating smart connected products with widely different use cases that will be combined in untold ways and sold across jurisdictions," DesAutels wrote. "They want the enabling power of AllJoyn, but they need it delivered within an Intellectual Property (IP) framework that is clear, concise and aligned with the realities of global business. … The new IP policy makes it very clear: Use a compliant base implementation of the AllJoyn code, certify your product, and you are good to go—it's as simple as that."
AllSeen has more than 110 members working on software based on the AllJoyn code, which was initially developed by engineers with chip maker Qualcomm, one of the constorium's founding members. The goal is to enable devices that use AllJoyn to connect with other AllJoyn-certified devices, facilitating the communication that is crucial to the Internet of things.
Industry analysts expect the IoT to grow rapidly in the coming years, with Cisco Systems officials predicting the number of connected devices worldwide will grow from about 25 billion last year to more than 50 billion by 2020. The ability for the devices to connect and exchange data is foundational to the IoT, enabling, for example, an AllJoyn-certified light bulb to communicate with an AllJoyn-based doorbell so that when someone rings the bell, the light bulb can flash.
To encourage the adoption of AllJoyn, device makers need confidence that what they build won't be the subject of patent litigation in the future, according to DesAutels.
"The challenge to delivering this is that the software that results from the AllJoyn project is the work of many contributors, each participating in a different context, under different constraints, for companies with different corporate goals," he said. "We are pleased to announce a revised IP policy that strikes a careful balance, aligning the interests of all of the Alliance stakeholders. This IP framework is designed to enable contribution to AllJoyn under clear terms and to facilitate broad adoption of AllJoyn in products meeting the interoperability goals of the certification program."
The IP policy was created "because the contributors who have and will contribute code to the project are giving you an open-source copyright license to the AllJoyn code and a pledge not to assert the patents they own that are required to implement their contribution in a certified AllJoyn implementation," DesAutels wrote.
AllSeen is among a number of groups developing open code to enable communication between IoT devices. Among the other consortiums are the Thread Group, which was launched last summer by ARM, Samsung and Google's Nest Labs business, as well as others, and the Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC), started by Intel, Dell and Samsung.
The OIC, which earlier this month launched a preview release of its IoTivity software framework, licenses its IoTivity code under the Apache License Version 2.0. Broadcom, one of the consortium's founders, left the group over a disagreement around IP terms.
Like AllSeen, the OIC is a project under the Linux Foundation.