Linux Mint joins the Open Invention Network (OIN) as a licensee

Linux Mint is now an OIN licensee. This basically means that we agree not to use any of our present or future patents against other OIN licensees and against Linux systems in general, and in exchange other OIN licensees do the same for us. OIN also owns a collection of patents which we can use for free, and which they would use against any company who would threaten an OIN member.

In other words we’re joining forces with other OIN licensees in a reciprocal agreement not to use our patents against each others and we’re also getting some level of protection from the OIN itself against potential external patent threats.

People know where I sit when it comes to intellectual property and especially when it comes to exclusivity and patents. When I first received an email from the OIN, with the word “patent” in it, I wasn’t too enthusiastic about it, to say the least. But as I read about the OIN, their purpose and their achievements, I got convinced that this was a good thing.

The same way the FSF is using copyright to protect copyleft, the OIN is using patents as some sort of dissuasive weapon to protect the Linux community.

Founder members of the OIN include:

  • Red Hat
  • Novell
  • IBM
  • Philips
  • Sony
  • NEC

Other Licensees of the OIN include:

  • Google
  • Canonical
  • Oracle

Of course we do not own any patents and we don’t intend to file any in the future. We gain protection against other members and licensees patents though (Philips owns the patents on the MP3 codecs for instance) and we associate our name with an honorable initiative which purpose is to protect community like ours and open-source developers.

Questions about this are welcome. It took me some time to get over my initial repulsion for patents and to see the good in this, so please don’t hesitate if you need some clarification.

This is very good news for us and for Linux in general.

For more information about the OIN:



  1. Well, I can’t complain. And I’m sure that you have the best interests of the Linux community at heart. It just makes me a little nervous that this thing is being backed by Novell especially considering there deal with Microsoft.

    I doubt Novell was truly at fault. However, in life as in the software world sometimes one thing leads to another. I hope that this patent agreement doesn’t set the producers of Mint Linux up to make future (not so agreeable)deals that may not be so beneficial.

    That’s my two cents worth and I appreciate your consideration.

    Thank you

  2. Hi Andy,

    The purpose of the OIN itself is sufficient to clear out any doubts about this and if it was to be compared to something else I think it should be to the FSF which it ressembles in purpose (protecting Free and Open Source developers) and in method (using intellectual property to fight against intellectual property).

    About the deal between Microsoft and Novell. It’s ridiculous and nobody likes it but that doesn’t make Novell “evil” in everything they do. They also contribute a lot to the Linux community and frequently push new innovations. It’s important to keep an open mind and to see all the shades of grey. Novell being part of the OIN is actually a good thing, even though Novell did sign that ridiculous deal.

    And if tomorrow Microsoft was to join the OIN (which is very unlikely by the way) then that would be great news for us, because that would mean they wouldn’t ever use their patents (if any) against us in the future.

    I see nothing wrong with signing agreements with Microsoft or any other company but I would never agree with the kind of deal that was made between Novell and Microsoft. Mark Shuttleworth spoke about this for Canonical and I completely agree with what he said. There’s nothing wrong with collaborating with Microsoft, what was despicable was the nature of the deal and the fact that Microsoft used FUD and threats to push a deal which never really benefited our community.

    PS: Everyone isn’t like Steve Ballmer at Microsoft (I’m sure there are some guys out there with brains and all…) and they do make great mice. See, you shouldn’t judge them so fast 🙂

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