The Open Source Development Lab (OSDL) has opened its Patent Commons Reference Library that aims to provide a single point where developers can find information about patents pledged to open source projects.
All these technology vendors have pledged some of their patents to open source, but each has done so under its own terms and conditions.
Sun Microsystems, for instance, limits its pledge to projects governed by the open source Common Development and Distribution Licence.
IBM supports all official open source licences with a group of 500 patents, and has pledged its entire patent portfolio in support of selected open healthcare and education software standards.
The plethora of terms and conditions makes it hard for developers to know which patents they can or cannot use. OSDL hopes that the new library will provide a 'one-stop shop' for developers, while encouraging individual patent holders to pledge their intellectual property to the open source movement.
The library is the first step in the OSDL Patent Commons project. While Cohen admitted in September that the library itself will do little to protect developers and users against legal claims made against open source, he insisted that it is a starting point.
Outside observers have suggested that the project could grow into a situation where OSDL takes ownership of or manages patents on behalf of their owners, allowing individual developers and enterprises to transfer their intellectual proprerty to the organisation.
OSDL will not take ownership of patents for now, but the organisation has said that this might change in the future.
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