Fighting patent trolls with the LOT Network

GitHub is joining the LOT Network, an open patent-licensing program designed to reduce patent litigation.

The rising threat of patent trolls

Some claim that software patents are essential to motivate us to innovate. In reality, the patent system suffers from a negative side effect—the patent troll. Patent trolls, or Patent Assertion Entities (PAEs), abuse patents to threaten your projects to the point that you either shut them down or pay the PAE to move along (if you can afford to do so).

As the data shows, trolls have been filing lawsuits in record numbers, and open-source software is far from immune: The Linux Kernel, Git, and many other open source projects have all been accused of patent infringement.

Companies Sued by PAEs Using Acquired Patents

Because of the economics of patent trolling, trolls usually target the most successful and innovative projects, which means those that many in our community contribute to. While we support the public initiatives to change patent policy at a legislative level, many of them have suffered roadblocks. So, while GitHub continues to support those initiatives, we are joining our peers to work together to shield our community from the threat of trolls and offer our users more immediate protection.

How the LOT Network works

LOT (“License on Transfer”) is an important step towards incapacitating patent trolls. Here’s how LOT works: when any member of the LOT network sells a patent to a troll, or when a patent troll grabs hold of any member’s patent by any other way, every other LOT member immediately receives a license to that patent. As LOT grows and more patents enter its network, fewer will remain for trolls to loot, which will ultimately result with trolls scratching their heads and rethinking the viability of their business model.

Open sourcing the LOT agreement

In addition to joining the network, we are now hosting the LOT agreement as an open source, CC-BY project. This means you can now access the LOT agreement, gain inspiration, and replicate it for use in similar efforts to fight patent trolls. Most importantly, you can make LOT even better and stronger by submitting issues, forking, and creating pull requests with your ideas for modifications.

Join us!

How?

  1. Become a LOT project contributor and help us make the agreement tighter and better.
  2. Become a LOT member yourself, or lobby to get your company to be one. As more and more of us join, the space for trolls will get narrower and narrower.

So long, Trolls!

Have feedback on this post? Let @github know on Twitter.
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