Linux patent pool to push for 'defensive publication'

A patent pool formed to protect Linux is starting an effort to help foster defensive 'publication.'

A tech vendor-backed company that buys up patents in an effort to protect the Linux community from intellectual property litigation will soon launch a Web site to help inventors file defensive publications -- documents that make details of an invention public, preventing others from later making patent claims on it.

"The more we can mobilize this community, the fewer patents that will actually be granted," said Keith Bergelt, who recently became CEO of the Open Invention Network. "Whatever happens in the patent reform world in the next [U.S.] administration is great, but we have to act now to stop the granting of patents that threaten Linux and open-source in general."

In coming weeks, OIN will reveal more details of the site, which Bergelt described as "a production environment where we educate and train people to do this. We'll work with them to make sure it's put in a form that is acceptable."

The effort will serve as a counterpart to OIN's existing strategy, under which it provides its patents royalty-free to companies in exchange for a commitment that they won't assert their patents against the Linux system. Its backers include NEC, IBM, Novell, Philips, Red Hat, and Sony. Google, Oracle and Alfresco are among the licensees.

The fund tends to acquire patents tied to areas like virtualization and networking, he said: "Those are kind of the key areas to Linux as it moves forward."

Bergelt declined to provide the specific amount of capital the fund has on hand but indicated it is in the hundreds of millions of dollars and that the organization will "continue to buy at a brisk pace."

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Chris Kanaracus

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