Red Hat released an updated and expanded version of its patent promise.
The revised patent pledge extends to “Covered FOSS,” which has a broad definition. Red Hat’s FAQ says, “While the old Promise covered approximately 35 percent of open source software, the new version will cover more than 99 percent. It applies to all software meeting the free software or open source definitions of the Free Software Foundation or the Open Source Initiative and listed by the FSF or OSI.” Both pledges cover all Red Hat’s patents.
Patent pledges are promises not to assert patents accusing certain activities or products. They help manage an apparent (but usually not quite actual) philosophical contradiction between releasing open source software and seeking patent protection. Red Hat pioneered this approach over a decade ago with its first version of the patent pledge, and other technology companies followed suit. But the popularity of promulgating patent pledges has waned somewhat, mostly because the fears they addressed have receded; bringing patent infringement claims accusing open source products is a scorched earth strategy. Over the last decade, few operating entities have demonstrated any appetite for it — Microsoft and Oracle being the most notable exceptions.
Kudos to Red Hat for its new promise!
For some other examples of patent pledges (and similar legal arcana), see:
IBM’s Statement of Non-Assertion of Named Patents Against OSS
Google’s Open Patent Non-Assertion Pledge
Tesla’s All Our Patents Are Belong to You
Twitter’s Innovator’s Patent Agreement