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Google shields open source cloud tech from patent trolls

Adds 79 infrastructure patents to non-aggression IP chest

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Google has moved to protect developers of data center management software by adding more patents to its Open Patent Non-Assertion Pledge.

By adding the 79 patents, Google is signalling that it will not prosecute people for making apps that involve these technologies unless they sue Google first, the company said on Thursday.

The Open Patent Non-Assertion Pledge was created by Google in March as a way for the tech giant to guarantee it wouldn't unleash its lawyers on companies producing or dealing with free or open source software that infringed on the patents. At launch, the pledge covered 10 patents relating to Hadoop, and now it includes broader ones for infrastructure management.

"These [79] patents cover software used to efficiently operate data centers, including middleware, distributed storage management, distributed database management, and alarm monitoring," the company's senior patent counsel Duane Valz wrote in a blog post on Thursday.

"Open-source software is also transforming the development of consumer products that people use every day – so stay tuned for additional extensions to patents covering those sorts of technologies," Valz wrote.

Google had acquired the patents from IBM and CA Technologies. Of the 79 patents, 10 involve distributed storage management, 19 alarm monitoring, 46 middleware, and 4 distributed database management.

Many of the patents appear to have broad applicability to a range of modern open source applications. For example, the "System and method of storing backup image catalog" patent "relates to creating, storing, and utilizing virtual images of a catalog for backup and recovery".

Other companies that have protected open-source projects from fiery patent wrath include Microsoft promising not to go after Project Mono, and other moves by companies such as Red Hat and IBM. The legal cowboys over at Texan hosters Rackspace have even gone on the offensive lately by targeting "the most notorious patent troll in America" with a lawsuit.

Though Google is making the right noises in terms of openness, the 89 patents now protected by the ONF represent a drop in the Chocolate Factory's ocean of over 50,000 patents.

The real test for the pledge will be if a company appears that makes open source technologies that fall under these patents, and then goes on to, let's say, sit at the heart of self-driving cars, augmented reality glasses, and data analytics software stacks. How far might Google's benevolence stretch then, we wonder. ®

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