Red Hat has decided to revise its 2002 Patent Promise that originally signalled the company’s intention not to enforce its patents against free and open source software.
The company, which is famed for its open source approach, had laid out in its original promise that it was designed to discourage patent aggression against free and open source software. The updated version not only reaffirms this but “extends the zone of non-enforcement.”
The updated Patent Promise will apply to all of Red Hat’s patents, and all software licensed under “well recognised open source licenses.”
Michael Cunningham, executive vice president and general counsel, Red Hat, said: “Red Hat’s Patent Promise now covers the lion’s share of open source code and continues to cover all of our patents. We encourage others to make commitments like these. The innovation machine represented by the open source community is an enormous positive force for society. Our patent promise – we believe the broadest in the industry – is intended to support and nurture that community and force.”
The expanded Patent Promise is said to “break new ground” with regards to the amount of software covered, with the company saying that this “represents the broadest commitment to protecting the open source software community to date.”
The company is now believed to cover 99% of open source software under the Patent Promise, a vast improvement over the roughly 35% of open source software that was covered under the previous one.
Red Hat’s move will likely improve the company’s image amongst the community, and given that they are the life blood of open source, this is a strategically intelligent move and perhaps make them an even more trusted vendor.