Open Patents

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Concept and specific organisation.


The Concept

From the Wikipedia:

"The Open Patent Movement seeks to build a portfolio of patented inventions that can freely be distributed under a copyleft-like license. These works could be used as is, or improved, in which case the patent improvement would have to be re-licensed to the institution that holds the original patent, and from which the original work was licensed. This frees all users who have accepted the license from the threat of lawsuits for patent infringement, in exchange for their surrendering the right to build up new patents of their own (in the specific domain for which the original license applies).

The open patent idea is actually quite old and has traditionally been practiced by consortia of research-oriented companies, and increasingly by standards bodies. These also commonly use open trademark methods to ensure some compliance with a suite of compatibility tests, e.g. Java, X/Open both of which forbid use of the mark by the non-compliant.

Thus the model already has a strong legal framework. Patent improvement licensing is already practiced by some global institutions, notably the government of China and MIT. Each of these manage a large patent portfolio and often require improvements to be licensed back as part of the original portfolio, although this is not the default license.

Critics question whether the promoters of truly 'open' and mandatory improvement licensing, having spent most of their lives opposed to software patents, can actually attract donors of patents, or would actually participate in a process that they claim to despise. This criticism probably focuses unduly on the personality and ideology of Richard Stallman, who has nonetheless sought to solicit donors for such schemes. He found, not surprisingly, that software patent holders were not so interested in talking to him.

However, despite confrontation between Stallman/GNU and the patent system, the open patent movement got going and attracted some support. It remains to be seen[vague] if it can become a major phenomenon - patents are difficult and costly to obtain and require extensive documentation, unlike copyrights. Patent rights on software and on life forms are controversial and many activists believe that they can successfully prevent such patent rights from existing at all, and so would be less inclined to patent and contribute to any such portfolio.

On October 12, 2001 the Free Software Foundation and Finite State Machine Labs Inc. (FSMLabs) announced a GPL - compliant open-patent license for FSMLabs' software patent, U.S. Patent No. 5,995,745. Titled the Open RTLinux patent license Version 2, it provides for usage of this patent in accordance with the GPL." (

The Organization:

"The basic idea behind is to change the rules of the patent game such that it is to the advantage of participants to help solve the problems of software patents.

This is done with two tools: A certification mark and a patent license.

  • The Certification Mark: The Open Patent Certification Mark license can be applied to goods and services that are "playing fair" with respect to patents, (according to standards that will be published)

  • The Patent License: The Open Patent License (still under development) is in effect a mutual nonagression pact, with a number of additions"

More Information



  1. Open Source Patent Licensing
  2. Patent Commons


  1. Defensive Patent License


  1. Eco-Patent Commons
  2. Global Innovation Commons
  3. Peer to Patent ; Peer-to-Patent ; Post-Issue Peer To Patent
  4. Open Patent Alliance
  5. Public Patent Foundation